Tuesday, January 29, 2013

But I'm happy...

     In thinking about how I wanted to begin this series on finding direction from God, I've run into a couple of unexpected road blocks.  The umbrella dilemma is that I'm happy...happy being a problem, yeah, that's a new one.  Basically, my being so happy with my "job" makes it extremely difficult to spend time focusing on how I can be happy outside of work as well.  So a little bit of background, I am now in my 3rd week of internship at a local high school and I couldn't be more sure that I'm where God wants me and that I'm following my calling.  Funny how that takes away the urgency to find a partner.
     The need to seek God's direction doesn't come until the weekends, when suddenly I don't have a set schedule or a purpose and I go through the motions of life zombie-like.  So my mission is then to seek direction in how to create a life outside of work.  It's not that I don't have great friends, or a family only an hour away that always wants to spend time with me.  Instead, it's about needing some sort of purpose outside of being a teacher.  Thinking about my future life time of "free" summers, I know that developing this now will reap a life time of rewards. 

So anyway, here it goes...
"God told me who to marry, where to work, which car to buy...and I'm pretty sure I'm not crazy: learning to listen for guidance from God" by Jim Samra
I'll start by saying that God definitely told me to be a teacher.  I cannot give any other explanation for having a completely out of the blue change of heart career-wise while driving home from work a couple of years ago.  Now that I think about it, I'm almost surprised that I hadn't until now thought to ask God how to find purpose outside of my career...I've certainly asked loads of people...

Samra makes a point to differentiate between making moral decisions and non-moral life decisions.  Moral decisions should be guided by our relationship with Christ and having Him living in and through us.  But non-moral life decisions cannot be easily discerned from simply living a Christ-like life. 

In the first chapter, "What is guidance from God?", Samra addresses 2 common concerns that modern Christians have in regards to explicit, specific guidance from God:

1.  "Aren't those passages simply describing what happened in the past, not prescribing what we are to expect in the present?"
>>"all Scripture, including narratives from the Old Testament, is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for revealing God to us and communicating how God wants us to live today."
It certainly is amazing how often people willserendipitously come across a passage in their daily reading that speaks volumes to their current life situation.  Time to get back to my morning scripture time!

2.  "of course God guided and directed Saul, Nehemiah, Jesus, and Philip.  They were important Bible characters, central to what God is doing in history.  But I am not important enough for God to guide me."
>> "In James 5:13-16 God wants to encourage ordinary, everyday people like you and me to turn to prayer, so he has James tell a story from the life of Elijah.  Anticipating our 'But Elijah's important; I'm not!' argument, James continues with, 'Elijah was a man just like us' (v. 17)."
Lest we still don't get the message, Samra adds, "there are no extraordinary people - just an extraordinary God."
I think that statement pretty much speaks for itself - a powerful and uplifting message to remember.

'Til next time...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finally setting off on the road back...it's about time

          I've been doing an awful lot of thinking over the past few weeks and not near enough listening.  It's funny how thinking too much can make you feel pretty terrible...the old adage "you're overthinking it" comes to mind.  In a similar vein, I frequently have to tell my students that they're thinking too hard about how to answer a question.  It would seem that thinking a lot would be a healthy thing for giving the brain a workout, but good gracious it wreaks havoc on the heart. 
          Even when it comes to God and what His presence in my life means to me, I over think it.  I start focusing on the fact that God has a plan for my life and a purpose and that He knows what's best for me.  Starts out as a really great thought, but then it becomes, "What if God's best for me is to be single for my entire life?"  Yeah, I would say thinking too much is my worst personal vice.  Instead of dwelling on all the "bad" possibilities for my future, I just need to trust and be patient...even though the trusting and being patient is getting mind-numbingly difficult. 
          But as I mentioned in my last post (back in November), waiting in its truest form is an active thing.  So with that in mind, you'll be seeing consistent posts again.  I'll be going through the book I mentioned on that last post and writing about it here. 
          Time to start listening, and see what God has to say...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finding the Road Back

     NOTE: Don't be discouraged by the first paragraph!

     Isn't it strange how a huge chunk of future time can be behind us before we know it?  That was this last month for me.  There have been moments of clarity in the whirlwind...times when I felt direction and everything made sense...but they were always fleeting.  For the past week I've been trying to find the road back.  Back to a place where I find God in everything, have contentment and peace with my life circumstances, and overflow with a passion and joy for the things that I love.  Emotions and feelings crowd out all logical thoughts and I'm left sick, both physically and spiritually.  I have to get out...I have to remember what it is that makes this world so wonderful.  It hurts to flounder - aching heart and anxious nerves and stomach.  It seems like every opportunity I have to reach up and get out of the pit gets devoured and I'm left floundering again.  I'm losing track of myself and my life in the process.  Where do I start to find a way back?

     I was recently having a conversation with someone who mentioned Jars of Clay and, having realized that I hadn't listened to this favorite band of mine in forever, I took a new look at my Jars of Clay collection.  Wow!  If you haven't taken a really good look at their album "The Long Fall Back to Earth," it's a must do.  While still a different sound than their earliest work, the artistry is back and beautiful.  The lyrics are powerful and embedded in reality.  I feel like I could define my life by placing every one of these songs in some sort of paralleling chronological order.  The songs on this album have been doing so much for me in finding the road back.  "Forgive Me," for example, seems to be exactly where I am right now.

     I also decided to start chipping away again at my Kindle library by reading one of the many random free Christian books that I've downloaded.  I began "God Told Me" by Jim Samra, and this choice had to have been a divine one.  I have longed for years to find a book that covers the idea of discovering God's direction in one's life, and every book I've tried on the subject has failed miserably at the task by being too vague, too specific, or too out there.  This book is miles better in comparison.  I can't begin to describe the degree of direction this book has provided me with.  I've been waiting and waiting for oh so long for certain things to become clear.  While some of these things have become clear over the past couple of years, other worries still remain.  And...I wait...wait for understanding and a clear path for what to do next.  I know it seems like a lot to ask, and I know plenty of people who would just say that all of my possible future bad experiences will help me with my decisions beyond that.  But I've had more bad experiences than I can count on both hands, and so I'm ready...ready for direction and understanding.  I'm done with waiting and ready for the action verb that is patience.  Here in stepped this fabulous book...there will be more to come for sure...

     To round things out, I want to share what I just read in my newspaper horoscope for June 30th.  "It takes two to tango.  Team up with others to muddle through mundane tasks - or invite a friend along on what would otherwise be a routine errand."  While I read them just for kicks, I think this one is something I should take to heart.  Living alone does have its advantages, but it can be oh so isolating.

     So here I am, trying to find the road back.  I don't know how long it'll take - Lord knows I hope everything will come together soon.  I've taken so many wrong turns (or maybe these were just "educational sidetrips") and am so done with them.  But if it's what He has in store for me, then I'm all for it.  Regardless, I will ask Him for clarity and a sense of direction, knowing that He gives to all those who ask (Matthew 21:22).

-For those who feel the urge, I would be honored to have your prayer.  For those who haven't seen me in awhile, I've been out of town a lot doing some very exciting things, so don't let this post worry you too much...I love you all.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Journey into "7"

Good morning all!  I hope everyone has had a fabulous past week :-)  I'm still loving school and loving my GA-ship - although my time has been devoured...obviously.  Regardless, I'm going to try and set aside some time everyday for blogging because I find that it really does keep me focused and happy (see this post).

Anyway, I recently joined the Bloom Book Club from (in)Courage and was extremely fortunate to receive a free copy of Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Thank you so much for those who donated a copy!!  This book details the author's journey into minimalism with the intention of letting more God into her life.  Such an incredible inspiration.

Her categories include: food, clothing, shopping, waste, possessions, media, and stress.  All great categories to think about...

She begins with food.

Hmmm...my daily interaction with food is one I am certainly NOT proud of.  I eat out far too much and because of this, I eat beyond my means.  I am in debt because of food!!  I don't buy excessive amounts of clothes or tangible goods, but instead waste all of my money on meeting my cravings and desires for certain foods (which by their nature are gone in a flash).  I've never put this reality into words before...what an eye-opener :-/

While I had originally planned on just passively reading the book and absorbing knowledge from blog posts discussing what others had learned, I find myself quite convicted at the moment.  I think I may have to begin my own journey into these 7 categories of excess.  Since this book club is doing a chapter a week and not a chapter a month, like the author, I will go along with them and delve into my excess a week at a time.

So I begin with food.  I'm not going to pair down my food intake to only 7 items like Jen does, but instead am going to focus on not eating out for a week.  This is so much harder than it may seem!  As a graduate student in education, I am always on the move going to and from schools and of course my own classes at UA.  I don't stay in one location all day and so don't have the luxury of a refrigerator to store a lunch.  From my own personal experiences, having a non-perishable lunch of a granola bar, crackers, apple sauce, and tuna every single day is just not fun.  I know my focus should not be on enjoying this, but if I'm going to make not eating out last, then I have to come up with a way to make it enjoyable enough to continue past just one week.  I have to get out of debt!  Some days I know I will have to resort to the above assortment of food, and when I look into my paper lunch bag and see the same boring items for the umpteenth time, I need to start praying and open up space for Christ to come in and work on me rather than selfishly say, "Hmmm...I really don't want that, I'll just grab *** from *** and be happily satisfied."  I need to realize that this satisfaction really only lasts up until I get my credit card bill and see how many hundreds of dollars I've spent on my momentary cravings!

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. - Romans 13:8

The borrower is slave to the lender.  When you are in debt to another, you enter into a slave/master relationship with your creditor. - Proverbs 22:7
And yet we are called to only be slaves to Jesus Christ!

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. - Matthew 5:42
How can I follow this command if I myself have no money to give??

I'm being hit pretty hard at this very moment with the desire to visit my favorite post-Church restaurant for a delicious burrito or chimichanga and that wonderful pile of never-ending chips with salsa and queso dip...UGH!!  But if I am to have enough money to give to those who are less fortunate than myself, then I really need to calm down and think clearly about my eating habits.  The less I eat out, the sooner I can pay off my credit cards and actually have money to give.

May Christ work in me over the next week to be content in what I already have and to be creative in making dishes from what's already in the pantry!  So I'm challenging myself to stick with making meals from what I already have (after I buy milk and bread today) for the next week - May God be with me...

Here's the book club post including a video of a discussion with the author.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Mufasa ;-)

So it's been ages since I last posted...school has definitely started back full steam.  I'm incredibly excited about my courses so far though and my Graduate Assistantship is amazing!  I have high hopes for a wonderful semester :-)

I've taken a bit of a break in organizing since what's left is not that visible and it's not stressing me out now to the point of having to get stuff done, which is good...and bad...lol.  But when it's all complete, I'll be sure and show off the final results :-)

For now, I'd like to share some great quotes I came across in Mufasa's Little Instruction Book from Disney Press.  Remember I said awhile back that I was going to post quotes from the quote books I'm donating?  Well this is the first one::

- "Very little in life is black and white - except if you're a zebra!"
I think this has a lot of relevance in the ways that we interact with other people.  We may assume that they are acting a certain way for a certain reason, but honestly, we have no idea what is truly going on in their lives.

Ngorongoro Crater, TZE [taken by me]

- "When a lion is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package."
I LOVE this one!  It is so so true and a really great way of visualizing what happens when we only consider ourselves.  We tuck ourselves in and don't allow ourselves to expand out to the people around us.  How can we help and love others when we are wrapped up in a tight self-absorbed ball?  (No matter how big our problems may be...)  I really need to focus on this one, especially when the downward spiral starts to take hold...

Serengeti National Park, TZE - lion cub [taken by me]

- "The only way to have a friend is to be one."
Amen to that!  Friendship takes time and effort on the part of both friends.  It really sucks when you're the only one putting energy into the relationship - but when both parties are enthusiastic about caring for each other, neither person can help but feel loved.

- "Sometimes you have to be like a giraffe and stick your neck out to get what you want."
I'm going to keep this visual in mind for the future.  Be like a giraffe!!  A super important thing for meek, doormat me to remember...  I need to stop expecting people to roll out the carpet for me and invite me to do things with them.  If I want to do something, I need to start sticking my neck out there like a giraffe and make it known that I want to be a part of the group.  It's incredibly painful to not be automatically, reflexively included but maybe after a few times of sticking my neck out, I will be :-/

Tarangire National Park, TZE [taken by me]

- "It's no good running swiftly if you are on the wrong path."
Doing this leads to simply falling flat on your face :-(

Serengeti National Park, TZE [taken by me]

- "To speak without thinking is to pounce without first seeing your prey."
An interesting way to look at it - if you speak without thinking first, then you've wasted your energy on something that may get you nowhere - or may set you back a few paces.

- "No lion can think clearly when his paws are clenched."
  "Always think before you roar."
Don't act in anger.  Let your feelings simmer down before you do something about them...

- "No one knows the story of tomorrow's dawn." - African proverb
A hopeful way to look at the future.  We never know what great things might come across our path.

Tarangire National Park, TZE [taken by me]

That's all for now!  But since I'm back in the swing of a non-Summer schedule, 
I'll get back to posting regularly too :-)  Glad to be back to writing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 28

Well, today is the first day of the semester and it's about time to move on to something else here at Knitty Love.  I'm going to do one more post in this series tomorrow, but after that I'm going to start something new :-)

Cleaning successes over the past couple of days>>
1.  Instruction manuals/warranties - I had these laying around in the most random places!!  Now I've loosely separated them into 2 expandable folders in my Financial Documents Box.  My categories are "Electronics" and "Household" (although household does include various types of lights as well as electronic toys...don't judge!! lol)

2.  Winter clothes - These were in the guest room closet, but I really don't want to keep any personal effects, except for decorations, in the guest room.  Now they are in my hobby room closet and actually fit really well...and I found about 8 more clothing items to give away - yayness!

3.  Wires - These are now all corralled in one small Rubbermaid box behind one of my VHS baskets.  It looks so much better not to have wires jammed inside the basket, sticking out every which-a-way...

4.  Addresses - I just went ahead and put addresses and phone numbers that I didn't want to get rid of into my computer's address book.  Finally gettin' with the times I guess.

5.  Ribbons/cording/string - I've decided to put all of my ribbons and various crafting cords and string into the same box with my cross-stitches-in-progress.  There was plenty of room left over in the small chest I had these in and my ribbons, etc. used to be just free in my fabric chest, which is not too feasible for maintaining order...

Isn't this chest beautiful?! :-)

6.  Hangers - I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I've gotten rid of all the hangers that are shaped weird, too big, or from clothing stores (unless they're wooden like those from LOFT).  Like I've briefly mentioned before, even if it's a useful product, it makes so much more sense to only keep the items that you really love.

And spiritual reflections >>>

Hebrews 2:17-18 [The Voice]::
17  He had to become as human as His sisters and brothers 
so that when the time came, 
He could become a merciful and faithful high priest of God, 
called to reconcile a sinful people.
18  Since He has also been tested by suffering, 
He can help us when we are tested.

One of the end-of-Chapter 12 questions asks the following in reference to the above passage, "Jesus, who also was tempted, understands what I'm going through.  Does this truth help me to look Him in the eye when I sin?  (Why, or why not?)
     Honestly I have mixed feelings about my response.  On one hand, I'm ashamed to look Jesus in the eye because He is SO much better than me!  He knew how to resist, knew the scriptures to reference, and knew all the right answers.  I am absolutely NOTHING compared to that!  But that's the point isn't it?  We are nothing without Him and the amazing reality of being a Christian is that He lives in us and in God's eyes we are righteous and as able to resist temptation as Jesus was.  It is so incredibly difficult to remember this sometimes.
     Also, Chapter 13 got me thinking about what my biggest sin trap is and it took me reading through the entire chapter and engaging in a number of Bible passages before my sin hit me.  I never really saw it as sin before because I've always felt like my past history and circumstances and the feelings, self-thoughts, emotions, and descriptions of myself that went along with these experiences were truths about myself and were cycles that I would never be able to get out of.  I'm not going to go into detail about what my sin trap is because obviously it's extremely personal, but I do want to say that I've felt worthless, useless, and degraded at times.  I've convinced myself that a couple of things that happened to me in the past have forever shaped the ways that I am able to act in the present.  That is SO FAR from the truth!!!  I have Jesus inside of me and because He is my husband and friend, I do have worth - I am useful - I am beautiful and unique and was made the way I am because He desired it to be so!  If I can just keep this reality in my heart and mind and soul, then I have the power to overcome even the most ingrained and intimate sin.  That freedom is amazing and I am truly joyful that I have now seen my sin as sin and not as a helpless cycle born of my past.

     In The Voice translation of John 14:6, Jesus says,
I am the path, the truth, and the energy of life.  
No one comes to the Father except through Me.

The energy of life!  This is so much more descriptive and powerful than the usual translation of simply "life".  He is what makes life life.  He moves and breathes and is within us.  He is the energy that gives us the power to resist temptation and live Godly lives focused on things above.  How could I then not approach Him differently?

     Once again from The Voice, Jesus says in Matthew 11:29,
Put My yoke upon your shoulders - 
it might appear heavy at first, 
but it is perfectly fitted to your curves.  
Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  
When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest.

What an incredible reference to the fact that we are made exactly as Christ desired for us to be made!  His yoke is perfectly fitted for each of us individually.  He knows our past.  He knows our problems and hang-ups.  He knows the things that hurt us inside and that sometimes make daily life incredibly difficult.  And because of this, He knows how to help us out of our individual temptations and out of our personal deep pits of sorrow.  How thankful we should be for that reality!

     I want to end with a powerful quote towards the end of the chapter, "When we confess our sins, God forgets them completely: He erases the board, shreds the evidence, and hits Delete.  Getting clean from the past is a wondrous way to start the day.  And time with God will make a difference."  I'm pretty sure it was these few sentences that made me realize my personal sin trap and realize that I do have the power to get out of it, through Christ!  Amen to that ;-)

State-of-mind pic of the day
Mount Mara, TZE - 
where I lived with my Bangatan homestay family
[taken by me]

Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 27

Wow, I cannot believe that it's already Monday and that the semester starts back in 2 days.  While I am a little stressed out about all the things I need to do before the end of the day tomorrow, I'm still super excited about starting my classes... But it would've been nice if I'd had some kind of summer to speak of.  At least I have some things to show for what I've accomplished this summer:
- A growing friendship with a fellow education student
- A huge pile of stuff to donate/sell
- A's in both Biochemistry and a terribly frustrating online course
Those 3 things make this past busy summer worth it :-)

So, what did I accomplish in cleaning yesterday??

1.  Cross-stitch: I never thought about going through my crafting items to get rid of stuff because I, of course, automatically assume that I still want it all...HA!  I filled up a grocery bag to bulging with cross-stitch to donate...why?
- Super old-fashioned
- Just not my style
- Gifts that are past their time
- Why in the world did I find this cute at one time?!?
- Would I really want to put this on my wall?
- Is there someone that I would really want to gift this to?

 Now these 2 shelves look so much nicer :-)

2.  Gift-wrapping bags (I had 3 of them!): I managed to get all this down to just 1 bag (hopefully, having now gone through all of these items, I'll remember not to be a pack rat with them in the future).  What did I get rid of?
- Ugly boxes and bows
- Ripped bags
- Tissue paper that looked like toilet paper (lol - yeah,
   some of it really did) or was ripped
- Would I really give a gift to someone in this bag?
- Bubble wrap (Only God knows why I keep this stuff...)
- Little paper bags that were wrinkled beyond repair
- Wrapping paper that was too small to cover any gift

3.  Crafting books: Found 3 to donate.
- Iron-on transfer kit
- Fabric painting
- Dollar bill origami
Yeah, don't think I'll be doing any of that any time soon...

     That's about all that I got through, but yesterday was a fairly busy day what with my fam popping in on me without prior notice.  "Hey!  We'll be there in less than 5 minutes."  >> My response, "WHAT?!?!" Lol, I love seeing them - I have a truly fantastic family - but man talk about last minute!!

And spiritual reflections >>>
     Chapter 12 of Unstuck gets the reader to truly examine the character of Jesus.  I have a feeling that once most Christians learn who Jesus is and what He has done for us on the cross, they stop really meditating on His phenomenal nature.  I know I have problems with this, especially when I'm at my lowest emotional points.  So here are the passages provided to explore that question, "Who is Jesus?" [All passages written out below are from The Voice translation.  Emphasis mine.]

-John 15:13-17 >> a friend, He chose me
v. 16a You did not choose Me.  
I chose you, and I orchestrated all of this 
so that you would be sent out 
and bear great and perpetual fruit.

-Matthew 9:35-36 >> compassionate, infinitely giving 
v. 36  Whenever crowds came to Him, 
He had compassion for them because they were so 
deeply distraught, malaised, and heart-broken.  
They seemed to Him like lost sheep without a shepherd.

-Colossians 1:13-20 >> eternal, Creator, first
v. 15  He is the exact image of the invisible God
the firstborn of creation, the eternal.
v. 17  He has always been!  
It is His hand that holds everything together.
v. 18b  He is the beginning, 
the first of those to be reborn from the dead, 
so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything - He is first.

-Revelation 3:19-22 >> disciplining out of love, welcoming, desires us
v. 19a  Those I love I also correct and discipline.
v. 20  Now pay attention; 
I am standing at the door and knocking.  
If any of you hear My voice and open the door, 
then I will come in to visit with you 
and to share a meal at your table, 
and you will be with Me.

     As Charles Spurgeon says so eloquently in regards to the story in Mark 5:24b-34, "God speaks sometimes through our circumstances and guides us, closing doors as well as opening them.  He will let you know what you must do, and what you must be.  He is waiting for you to touch Him.  The hand of faith is enough.  Your trembling fingers can reach Him as He passes.  Reach out your faith - touch Him.  He will not ask, 'Who touched Me?'  He will know."
     I found this fabulous side note in The Voice translation, "The woman in this story is unique because she receives her healing without asking for it - simply by touching Jesus in faith.  He is surrounded by crowds pressing in on every side, but Jesus feels that one person's touch is different, in a way that only He can perceive: one woman is touching Him deliberately, in hope and faith, knowing He has the power to heal her."

State-of-mind pic of the day
Rain in the distance
Serengeti National Park, TZE
[taken by me]