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. 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 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  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]

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 26

Today is another wonderfully rainy day - so beautiful and calming.  *contentment*

Cleaning accomplishments >>
1.  Xmas decorations - I found a whole crate-full to give away!
     Now everything will fit fabulously, without any forcing, into
     my 2 Rubbermaid containers.  And, I'm only in possession
     of the items that truly make me smile :-)

2.  Mail box - Everything is now organized by category:
     blank, Xmas, Thanksgiving, Thank You, Miss You,
     and Valentine's Day
       a. Cards that no longer strike my fancy >> donate
       b. 2 address books I love >> ripped out the pages and
           kept the covers for future crafting projects
       c. Mailing labels with my parents' address >> trash
       d. I removed most card sets out of their individual boxes
           so that I could organize like with like and find things
           more easily.
Like cards are separated into Ziploc bags.

3.  File box - This contained a booklet for Apple Bootcamp,
     2 boxes of hanging file folders, and Leopard OSX for
     Dummies (such an odd collection of stuff...welcome to my life ;-)
       a. Bootcamp booklet >> recycle b/c I now also have a PC
       b. 1/2 of the hanging file folders (in a not so pretty purple color)
            >> donate (The remaining file folders fit very nicely into the
            crate I set aside for folders and such.)
       d. I still haven't figured out what to do with all of my computer
       c. Turns out this box is perfect for holding all of my 
           financial documents
Now the folders won't fall over 
when I'm going through them :-)

4.  3 random discs
       a. I found the French movie I made my Jr. year of HS...
           and it works!!! :-D
       b. Sounds of the Seventies - 26 CDs worth of fantastic 70's music,
           each disc with about 20 songs - A find that seriously
           made my day ;-)
       c. Photos from camp - 50 photos from the summer before my
           Jr. year of HS.  I already knew I had hard copies of these,
           but yay for digital!

5.  Finally hung my giant Dale Peterson yard sign back on the wall
     (it was hanging by just one tack and was too high up and too
     gigantic for shorty me to fix).  If you haven't seen the video,
     watch it below - absolutely hysterical!!!

This sucker is at least a yard wide...LOVE IT ;-)

And on to Spiritual reflections >>>

     Chapter 12 of Unstuck explores how we should deal with the "dark side" of our nature.  It's always there, even for the most mature Christians (Paul makes note of this vividly in Romans 7).  The thing that is so wonderful and so peace-giving about Christianity, is that it's okay to be completely messy, because Jesus unconditionally loves us.  No amount of good works or religious legalism will make us more likeable in the eyes of God.  Take note of Paul's words in Philippians 3:8 [The Voice]:

And more so, I now realize that all I gained 
and thought was important 
was nothing but yesterday's garbage 
compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord.  
For Him I have thrown everything aside - 
it's nothing but a pile of waste
so that I may gain Him. 
[emphasis mine]

     Of course this doesn't mean that we should run around and sin uncontrollably, but it does mean that our forgiveness by God and reconciliation in Christ allows us the freedom of not getting mired down in shame and guilt.  I can't stand when people say that Christians are hypocrites, because Christians are NOT perfect and should NEVER claim to be!  We ALL make mistakes because we are all human and have all fallen from the grace of God.  The difference is in the peace we feel in knowing that God will forgive us for our sins and in our repentant nature when we recognize our sins.  A mature Christian will ask for forgiveness for a sin they committed against someone, will bring their sins to God and ask for a renewed spirit, and will trust in the Lord to mold their hearts to His will over time.  Of course I say and do things that I regret, but with my Savior always at my side, I know that I am loved and forgiven and am free from the entanglements of worry over my sin.

     In regards to a man named Shane, whose story is told in
Chapter 12, "Here's what changed during his decade of walking with Jesus: He now doesn't try to hide his mess.  He's pretty open about it, even writes songs about the stuff that trips him up.  This brings sighs of relief in some who have heard his story: I'm not alone! they think.  I can stop pretending I have it all together and start living with authenticity, just like this guy.  I don't have to be afraid anymore.  I can take a step toward God, warts and all."

     And as Shane puts it himself, "This world is filled with wounded, hurting, broken souls.  I'd say that we're all pretty messed up, but only a few are brave enough to admit it.  We like to believe we're okay - that we have it all together.  I've learned that it's okay to be broken.  When we get to this point, we can put away all the junk that gets in the way - our efforts to 'get things right,' and do 'Christian things.'  God is our Healer.  He can accomplish in us what we cannot do on our own."  [Bold emphasis mine]

     The authors of Unstuck go on to say, "What marks those who trust Jesus as Savior and Lord isn't the ability or certainty to sin less, but the awareness of sin being forgiven and of being released from its ongoing consequences (guilt and shame).  The experience of that freedom fills our hearts with love for God, for what He has done on our undeserving behalf; this love empowers us to serve Him by loving others." [Emphasis mine]

     When we allow ourselves to get mired down in worry, guilt, and shame over our mistakes, we are being exceedingly selfish in acting as if God is not in control and does not have the power to heal us.  Only when we put aside our hang-ups over our own sins, can we approach others with true unconditional love, kindness, and forgiveness.

     I'd like to end with a short passage from The Voice translation of Colossians.  I can't think of a better way to describe the true meaning of Christ's death on the cross.

Colossians 19-20 [The Voice]
19  God was pleased that all his fullness 
should forever dwell in the Son 
20  who, as predetermined by God, 
bled peace into the world by His death on the cross 
as God's means of reconciling to Himself 
the whole creation - all things in heaven 
and all things on earth.
[emphasis mine]

State-of-mind pic of the day.
Another fabulous storm :-)
Photo taken less than a minute ago by me.

This post is linked up with:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 25

Good morning.  The new semester starts in just 5 days and I'm actually quite confident in having a nicely organized house by then.  This series has been so great for me and I sincerely hope that you've enjoyed reading it.  Just a few more days to go, but plenty more to write about...

Cleaning successes::
1.  Movies - I have 4 baskets full of DVDs, VHSs, and N64 games under my TV in the living room.  These baskets had slowly become cluttered disasters...that is, until the day before yesterday.  Now I can actually tell what's there and enjoy what I have!
     a.  All DVDs in cardboard sleeves or unlabeled cases 
          >> in small CD holder
          This reduced the clutter more than I expected.
     b.  I pulled out 1 DVD and 4 Wii games, all of which are not mine 
          >> going back to their owners
     c.  VHS recordings of old TV shows that are accessible on Netflix 
          >> trash
     d.  Computer information/documents 
          >> folder in back room
 See how pretty it all is now!  The DVDs on the left are all in alphabetical order, and notice how there's nothing on top of the DVDs making it ridiculously difficult to know what's inside!  That was a HUGE problem for me...

2.  Library books - They fit so nicely on my living room's bookshelf.  A perfect location where they are easily seen and easily accessed - no more late fees is the goal!

3.  Empty vials - Having been sitting in those 2 large "buckets" drying for a good while now, it was definitely time for them to get out of sight out of mind.  I separated them by type/size and put them with my full vials.  Yes, all of those pallets (except the top one on the left) contain :-P

4.  Easter/Valentine's Day decorations - I managed to come up with a small pile to give away and was able to then fit everything nicely back in the box (including some extra stuff that didn't fit).

5.  Pens/Markers - I went through my shoe box full of pens, as well as 2 pencil cases full that I had forgotten about (of course) and ended up throwing away 55 dried out pens and markers!!  That didn't even account for 1/2 of the pens and markers I have though...I won't need to buy pens for YEARS!

And here is the donation/sell pile up to this point >>>
This photo makes the pile look much smaller than it is in reality,
but compare it to this and you'll see the difference...

And on to spiritual matters >>>

FOURTH STEP:: Double-Check Your Wiring
-I was to choose from a list of 7 options the ways in which I grow best spiritually.  
   My choices:
          Sermons and Inspiring Messages (This is my favorite way to 
     pass the time when driving a long distance.  Check out "Covenant 
     Life Church" podcasts - they are fantastic!  Joshua Harris and C.J. 
     Mahaney are some of the pastors there ;-)
          Music and Art (Well, I was saved by God speaking to me 
     through a song so this was an obvious one and just take note 
     of all the song lyrics I reference on this blog.)
          Time Alone in Deep Reflection and Meditation (This goes back 
     to the whole idea of my engaging in nature.  Whenever I sit alone 
     on my balcony and take in a good thunderstorm, I am filled with 
     an incredibly powerful peace.)
-Other things that help me grow include:
          Struggles is a big one for me.  I've mentioned several times 
     throughout this series how bad situations have simply led me 
     closer to God.
-Key ways in which I'm going to nurture a relational faith include:
          Powered by 4 (I read Hebrews the other night and plan on 
     beginning an in-depth study of it.  I had no idea how powerful 
     this book of the Bible was!)
          Have conversations with God (Like I did back when I was 
     a newbie Christian)
          Continue blogging about my faith (I hope y'all are enjoying 
     this as much as me :-)
          Serve more (definitely my biggest weakness right now)

FIFTH STEP:: Set Some Spiritual-Growth Goals
Make sure they are:
-Concrete = can put into words
-Measurable = can see your progress
-Attainable = can reasonably be completed
     My goal at the moment is to spend the next 30 days seriously engaging with the book of Hebrews through commentaries, prayer, meditation, and memorization.  To assess my progress, I think I'll make some sort of spreadsheet that lays out what I want to accomplish each day - to make this goal a truly attainable one (since the unforeseen always happens), I'll stick with "Powered by 4" and only make plans ahead of time for 4 days each week.

     Our relational interaction with Christ is an ever-evolving thing and with that in mind, our goals will change and should change to help us grow ever more sanctified into His image.  As I develop new goals and find new resources for delving into my relationship with Christ, you will be the first to know!

     I've come across so many more fabulous things in Chapter 11 of Unstuck, but if I were to mention them all here, it would make this post way too long.  So for now, that's all :-)

State-of-mind pic of the day.
One of those thunderstorms I was talking about ;-)
Yesterday, from my balcony [taken by me].

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 24

I'm pretty much floored with how much I managed to get done yesterday in regards to cleaning.  It was fabulous :-D

1.  Education folder - I had about 3 file folders, 2 3-ring binders, and 1 manila envelope chock full of Education related papers and news articles.  Now I have all of it in 1 tab-divided 3-ring binder - SO organized!!!  At the moment, I am using the following categories::
Lesson Planning
Teaching Practice
Professional Development
Personal Experience
Graphic Organizers
Philosophy of Education
Classroom Management
School Reform
21st Century Education
While some of these categories may seem fairly redundant, it's what works for me and I am really happy with it :-)

2.  Spiral-bound notebooks/comp books/journals - All very nicely organized in one section of my wire shelving unit.

3.  Empty folders, file folders, 3-ring binders, and expandables - Lined up nicely and easily accessible in 1 crate.  Two of the 3-ring binders double as paper storage and 1 of them doubles as tab-divider storage.

4.  Teaching Assistant Biology Lab binders - Remember my throwing out all those extra student papers the other day?  Well I had placed all of the remaining papers in a file folder, and soon realized that I hadn't gone through the actual related binders in a very long time.  After going through the binders, I was able to place BSC 108 and 117 papers in their respective binders and everything fit SO WELL :-)

5.  Education books and notebooks - They fit in my bookshelves - yay!!  This is due to my solutions 2 and 3 above - success!

6.  Recycling - Another bag of office paper...if I had kept all the paper I've recycled over the past month and a half in a giant bag, I bet I could've had a bonfire lol.

I still have much more to do today but yesterday's successes have left me pretty pumped ;-)

State-of-mind pic of the day.
Wetlands in Ngorongoro Crater, TZE
[taken by me]

Unstuck >> "Plotting a course" for a more Christ-filled life::
The following is the first half of a process laid out in Chapter 11.  I've loved considering these questions for the past hour, it's really gotten me to think about who I am and what I believe.  Totally recommend doing this for yourself...

FIRST STEP:: Focus your vision
- What is my perception of God?
     Unconditionally loving
     Gracious and merciful
     Jealous, wanting ALL of me
     Lover of my soul
-What things are blocking a spiritual breakthrough in my life?
     Forgetting the awe and wonder of the Creator
     Getting caught up in human endeavors
     Letting earthly drama determine how I feel
     Being terrified of Heaven
     The judgmental-ness of others who are Christians
     My own feelings of diminished self-worth
-How can I work through them to get my faith moving again?
     Powered by 4!!
     Pray as I go to sleep
     Engage more in nature
     Talk to Him throughout the day
     Make the extra effort to show up on time to church...

SECOND STEP:: Dare to Dream
-What are my God-given gifts and talents?
     Passion for nature and biology
     Laughing and smiling all the time
     Loving other cultures
     Willingness to help others
     Fascination with "ugly/scary" creatures a.k.a. bugs and spiders
     Insatiable desire to learn new things
     Getting excited
     Accepting people as they are

THIRD STEP:: Pinpoint your personality
10 options are given and the reader is asked to select only one.  I laughed when I came across one in particular in the list.  I never would have come up with it on my own, but man does it define me.
-Investigative/A Fact-Finder
     Internet searches are my best  I notoriously look up any questions I have.  I'm never satisfied with not having some idea of why things are a certain way or how certain things work or why people do certain things.  I've always just referred to this as "the scientist in me" but maybe it's more than that.

Well that's all for now - my brain and heart need some time to ponder and reflect over all of the above...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 23

Cleaning has gone pretty well, I feel like I'm really getting
there :-)

1. Unread classics - I knew I could probably find these free on Amazon for Kindle, and I did!  I managed to clear up space for the remaining random books.  6 more book >> donate

2. Recycling - I took out 3 bags of newspapers, 3 bags of office paper, 1 bag of plastic, and 2 bags of aluminum...phew!

3. Laundry - Put up a ton of clothes...LBS rearing its nasty head...

4. Underclothing drawer - I have been wanting to get to this for a long time!
     a. All full-legged hose >> donate
     b. 2 redundantly colored undershirts >> donate
     c. All opaque trouser socks >> donate
     d. I found 2 gorgeous undershirts that I had completely forgotten
         about :-D
     e. 2 pairs of old glasses >> memory box (they're quite unique ;-)
     f. 1 pair of non-prescription sunglasses >> donate
          (I also found a prescription pair that aren't too far off -
     g. Repair Button Box::
          -Those without store names >> loose in box
          -Those with store names >> combined into just a couple little
            labeled bags
          -Cloth buttons and thread >> kept in bags
          -Buttons of long-gone clothes >> craft button box
          -Picture hanging accessories (don't ask) >> toolbox
     h. I also found my vintage cat-eye glasses!!! >> finally on display

     i.  Smell-less sachet >> garbage
     j.  It looks SOO much better, but now I have a ton of footless
         tights (very my style) to wash...meh

5. Another folder FULL of scientific articles - I'm at a loss to understand  Hopefully my computer's hard drive doesn't overload on pdfs...

6.  I'm keeping up with the dishes...minus pots and pans.  I've noticed that a lot of people just put their pots and pans in the dishwasher - does anyone know if this is actually okay to do??

7.  And lastly, the bookshelves are really shaping up :-)

Spiritual thoughts >>
     Chapter 11 of Unstuck is simply fabulous so far!  It discusses the wonder and awe that we should feel when thinking on God.  I really needed to be reminded of this simple truth.

     The authors so eloquently write, "In [Matthew 6:9-13/The Lord's Prayer] (and in other [passages]), Jesus begins with the perspective of childlike wonder [Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name] because of how much we need it while navigating through this difficult and complicated life.  Wonder leads us to trust in something bigger than ourselves; it brings about healthy awe and inspires an appropriate gratefulness; it's a path to worship, the way to approach our heavenly Father."  [emphasis mine]

     They then go on to point out, "Our sense of wonder about God as He's found throughout the Bible doesn't last forever on its own energy.  The wonder of discovering His story and its pervasive interconnection with our own can be awe-inspiring during those first years as a believer.  As times marches on, as we read and reread, our ability to take in all the magnificence can seem lost and irreversible."  [emphasis mine]

     I have unfortunately found myself as of late with the inability to see the magnificence and splendor of God.  I still run to Him to guide me through my day and to give me the strength and courage to live like Him and be true to myself, yet I can't help but feel that something is missing.

     Sarah Markley, in her post on (in)courage entitled "The Small Things That Keep You Close," does a splendid job of describing exactly what I need right now.
     My favorite passage from this post is::
"With a journal in one hand and the Bible in the other, we would spend 30 minutes or longer alone in the near woods asking God to speak to us through nature.  We watched pine trees sway and ants build homes and wondered what truth of God could be learned from such things."
     This is exactly the way that I best experience God, and I just haven't given myself much of an opportunity lately to do so.  I guess that's what happens when you live in a condo on the 3rd floor and don't have a backyard to sit in or nearby woods to walk to.  At Sewanee, I was constantly surrounded by nature.  A 13,000 acre forest lay within arms reach and my "being in nature" never just consisted of sitting on a balcony all day.  It'll take a little extra effort on my part due to my current living situation to get back into nature, but the result will totally be worth it, and I know that the awe and wonder of God will fill me with renewed joy.

State-of-mind pic of the day.
Ngorongoro Crater, TZE [taken by me]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 22

Afternoon all :-)
Sorry it's been awhile since I last posted in this series, what with dentist appointments (yes, plural...blech!) and hanging out with friends, I've been pretty busy.  It really has been a great week.

How is cleaning going?
Well, I'm still really just doing nitty gritty stuff.  It's long and arduous but MUST be done.

 1.  Old student papers - for some reason I pretty much kept all of these and finally got around to seriously culling them down to no more than 1 example per assignment.  HUGE difference :-)

2.  My M.S. research folder - more hard copy scientific papers (now pdfs) as well as old edits (why I felt compelled to keep the edits, only God knows).

3.  I went through all the papers in the below basket - coupons, financial stuff, organizing tips, and a pdf version of "Grad Essentials" (yay, now I can throw away the booklet too!).

4.  Below all the papers was this random assortment of items.  I went through all the pens and markers and threw away those that didn't work - I have a really bad habit of keeping highlighters until I'm literally scraping color onto the page...

5.  University of Alabama folder - Do I really still need a campus map after 3 years?  Haha...No...

6.  All of the memory items, recipes, household tips, and church stuff that I came across all went into their respective folders - Yay!

That's really all that I got done but every little bit helps :-)

Spiritual reflections >>>
I finished Chapter 10 of Unstuck and it was fairly short and sweet, just getting the reader to think about how we are not the center of the Universe and how we tend to label ourselves.

One of the authors said about the realities of a truly Christ-focused life:
"Following Jesus is a long and difficult trek 
that can take us through some hostile territory.  
We get weary and messy along the way.  
The ground gets rocky; the hills get steep.  
Though Paul didn't see many pretty rainbows or cushy meadows, 
this Christ-follower remained steadfast.  
He stayed true to the One he was following, 
true to his mission of lighting up the darkness."

He went on to ask the following question,
"Is 'Christian' just another achievement in my life?"
This is such a great question for those of us who claim to be Christians to ask ourselves.  Are our lives true reflections of Christ in us? Or are we just nominally Christian in rule-following?  I like to think that I do reflect Christ in the ways that I treat and interact with others.  There really is no legalism in my Christianity that I can think of.  Regardless, it's a really good idea to keep this simple question in mind and be sure that I don't ever let myself devolve to "Christian" just being another label for me along with "20-something," "entomologist," "female," "educator," etc.  Instead, I need to always remember that "Christian" is deeply a part of who I am and how I see and interact with the world around me.

The same author goes on to consider,
"I can't help but wonder what it would be like to see myself as God does.  
How would it change my daily life?  
What would happen if I stopped expending so much energy
 on my future and increasingly saw reality through His eyes?"

1 John 4:10
This is love: 
not that we loved God, 
but that He loved us 
and sent His Son 
as an atoning sacrifice 
for our sins.

What clearer an example can you get of how the world does not revolve around us?  Love is God's feelings towards us first and foremost.  We only learned how to love because he taught us by sending His Son to die on the cross for us, to be sacrificed for us, so that we may live in eternal joy!!

     Remember Theresa, who I quoted extensively in Day 14?  Well, her story continues in Chapter 10 as she has now become a missionary doctor, experiencing some of the most disheartening situations possible, in which she feels absolutely and completely helpless.  By changing her view of her role in life, she comes to a new uplifting realization of the reality of her being in Christ,

"I was compelled to consider 
the way I live my life in view of the gospel, 
with the whole world in my view!  
The purpose of educating ourselves about the rest of the world 
is to see that we're not its center - it doesn't revolve around us.  
This truth isn't meant to bring guilt but true enlightenment; 
not to make us feel overwhelmed, but concerned.  
We are the princes and princesses of God's kingdom.  
He calls us to rule and to reign with servant hearts, 
to lay down our be our brother's keeper."

I really like how she makes clear that this realization should not bring us to guilt - in my opinion, guilt is the cause of many a frustrated and ineffective person.  I've seen too many times the effects of feeling guilt for something that is not your fault.  People end up feeling like they are different and separate from those in need.  When the needy show kindness, generosity, and hospitality, people see it as a show to please them.  Neither of these consequences of guilt can lead to a positive outcome.  Instead, we must allow the Spirit to empower us with hope and action, always ready to help and serve and graciously accept any kindnesses that come from those who are less fortunate.  Only then can we build true mutual trust that clearly shows the light of Christ.

State-of-mind pic of the day.
Zebra in Ngorongoro Crater, TZE [taken by me].
For some reason, this zebra just seems extra joyful, 
with her tail swinging in the air, 
just living her life in the breathtaking African savannah.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 21

Well, I know I said awhile back that I was going to carry this series all the way out to 31 days but things are very close to being complete right now and I have 10 posts left to get to 31...  Of course, with the way the past month+ has been going, more stuff will probably jump out of the woodwork lol.

Cleaning >>>

For the past 2 days I've really just dealt with lots of random papers and pages torn out from magazines - it's fairly slow and arduous work but the results have definitely lifted some of the stress off my shoulders :-)

1. My porch is looking fantastic!!
     a. I put a small plastic basket next to the loveseat to be a "to read" magazine container and to hold my pens and markers that end up all over the floor.
     b. I have a very small stack of papers to still go thru on the porch but I think it's mostly just coupons to clip.

2. My bookshelves are full - - - ACK!!
     a. Okay, so after putting all of my empty folders and notebooks back in my bookcase (including those that were in a different location), they take up an entire shelf :-(
     b. I have no room for my education books - - this is gonna be interesting to figure out a solution to.

3. I put more cards in my card boxes and more memories in my memory folder.

4. Found more scientific articles online and recycled the papers - they KEEP SHOWING UP lol.

5. I organized my biology books into the following categories: Bio textbooks, Non-bio Science textbooks, Environmental Science, Invertebrates, Fungi+, Plants, Birds/Mammals, and Theory.  This sorting method has made it extremely easy to put random pamphlets, brochures, and handouts from conferences in appropriate and easily located places.

State-of-mind pic of the day.
I forget what species of bird this is but,
is it not absolutely gorgeous?!
[Taken by me in Ngornogro Crater, TZE]

Spiritual thoughts >>>
Chapter 9 of Unstuck makes several really great points about the Bible:
- There is a Person behind the pages.
- This amazing, ancient, yet still relevant book is the narrative story of God - it is HIS-story.
-The Bible is a compass more than a roadmap.

Now for the mundane, remember my promise a few posts ago? lol...
Over on Good Morning Girls, Jen wrote a fabulous post about recognizing God in our everyday mundane tasks.  Below is my take on it::

Ephesians 2:10 says:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [My emphasis added.]
According to this verse, our day-to-day tasks have been prepared for us by God - and considering that God knit us together in the womb, these works were probably laid out for us long before we breathed our first breath.  We were created so that we could carry out these works.  What a great way to look at tasks that we must complete that seem insignificant or boring!

I've already written multitudes on how we should do everything in our lives to the glory of God :-)
Just check out Day 6 (there are more days too).

Phillipians 2:14 says:
Do everything without complaining or arguing.
Hmmm...yeah, I think this is something that everyone needs to keep in mind.  I clearly remember the ridiculous number of Facebook statuses I posted while I was struggling through writing my M.S. thesis.  Let's just say that they were not uplifting or pump-me-up in nature.  I grumbled and whined in status after status.  I was truly struggling and was having real difficulty in getting through the arduous task in front of me, but regardless, I really don't think all of my Facebook friends had any desire to read status after status of complaining!! *blush* - how embarrassing looking back on it :-/

Well, more tomorrow!  We'll see what ends up on the chopping block ;-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Getting Unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 20

Cleaning >>>
It's going a little slow cuz I'm getting down to some of the nitty gritty now - but here's a quick list of some successes...

1. I'm a packrat right?  Well, that means that all the old folders I had in college that didn't completely get used up are still in my possession...  Yep!  Even if the backs of them were falling off.  So today I went through that ginormous stack and managed to get rid of the ones that were the worst for wear...of course while saving all of the paper inside...  Hey, it does save money in the long run.  I don't think I'll ever run out of lined!

2. I also had several stacks of papers that just needed to be filed away and that's now done - hallelujah for completing the simple but naggling things :-)

3. I've continued to go through a few of my old academic folders and notebooks and have been getting rid of papers by the stack.

4. I re-examined my 2 3-ring binders, folder, and manila envelope full of church memories, dramas, and lesson plans and managed to get them all down to just 1 3-ring binder and a folder - yayness :-)

5. I'm still working on the bookcases (#s 1, 3, and 4 having something to do with that).  It's been way more difficult than I had originally envisioned.  But it may actually be completed tomorrow...fingers crossed!

State-of-mind pic of the day.
Ngorongoro Crater in TZE (taken by me).

Spiritual reflections >>>

Chapter 9 of Unstuck contains a number of great Bible passages, and while reading them, I did my best to apply the methods found in Day 17 and Day 18.  Here is what I metabolized...

Matthew 6: 22-23 [The Message]:
     Your eyes are windows into your body.  If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.  If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar.  If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
     The note I wrote to myself in the book's margin was this: "If I allow myself to take in the beauty of God's creation and His promises, then joy and light will take the place of pain and doubt."
     While my eyes may not be squinty with greed, I definitely find them at times quite squinty with distrust - not trusting in His plan for my future and my life here on Earth.  But if I consider that the way I look at the world (and the magnificence that is God) is a window into my body or how my body/feelings react to my surroundings, then I have a much better chance of conquering the shackles of depression and doubt.

Proverbs 4:20-22 :
     Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to My words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body.
[my emphasis added]
     This simple phrase is an incredibly clear call to all Christians to seek out God's wisdom and truly engage in His word.  We must find His words, and to do that, we cannot just read them...

     To end, I want to share a quote in this chapter from J. I. Packer:
"God's purpose in revelation is to make friends with us.  God's friendship with men and women begins and grows through speech.  His to us in revelation, and ours to Him in prayer and praise.  Though I cannot see God, He and I can yet be personal friends, because in revelation He talks to me." [my emphasis added]

Hope that last quote leaves you in good spirits, it certainly brings a smile to my heart :-)