Saturday, June 30, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ: Day 7

Good morning all!  I am so happy to finally be back :-)  As I mentioned in the last post, my hiatus was due to the devouring monster called "biochemistry."  But I'm done now!!! yay

So on to spiritual matters...
I finished reading Chapter 3 of Unstuck and it was truly eye-opening.  Would you believe that people who read the Bible 4 or more times a week engage in destructive behaviors statistically significantly less than those who read the Bible 3 or less times a week?!?  The graphic in the text is quite astounding. As Cole puts it,

"This finding alone is truly groundbreaking!  
The Bible changes our lives.  
We can be radically better 
(actually strengthened and renewed) 
if we can allow God to speak to us 
through His Word - that is, 
if we listen to Him through what He says 
and ponder what it means."

   I'd like to share a few more quotes to best present this chapter's message.

"Please understand this: 
It's not only what's written in Scripture that will get your heart pumping; 
it's also what happens when you let the words into your heart.  
No one can explain the Bible's supernatural influence and impact 
- it must be experienced.  
The more I engage God's Word and respond to what He says, 
the more my life is molded into what He intends it to be.

Even though I believe Scripture's worth reading for what I can learn,
there's something even more exciting and worthwhile on a relational plane.  
God's Word gets past my head, touches my heart, and revives my soul.  
It renews my mind and begins to reproduce God's heart and character 
in my life."

"The scriptures contain our Creator's personal message to us.  
Regardless of the situations we face, 
within its pages are hope, wisdom, direction, 
and the keys to getting unstuck."

     If you have doubts about this last insight, just check out Exodus 18.  A post from Michael Hyatt that focuses on how to be an effective and efficient leader led me to this wonderful chapter of Exodus. 
     In this passage, Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, has just returned to Moses with his wife and children in tow.  The first half of this chapter (verses 1-12) relates a beautiful relationship between a woman's father and his son-in-law; this in itself is truly inspiring and definitely shows a Godly view of how in-laws should relate with each other (compared to the type of relationship consistently portrayed in the media).  
     But then, in the second half (verses 13-27), it goes on to reveal a wonderful bit of advice.  Jethro sees that Moses's work load is far too much for him and is weighing him down with exhaustion.  In response to what he notices, Jethro tells Moses:

17b "What you are doing is not good.  
18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out,
for the thing is too heavy for you.  You are not able to do it alone.
19 Now obey my voice;  I will give you advice,
and God be with you!
You shall represent the people before God 
and bring their cases to God,
20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws,
and make them know the way in which they must walk
and what they must do.  
21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people,
men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe,
and place such men over the people as chiefs
of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens
22 And let them judge the people at all times.
Every great matter they shall bring to you,
but any small matter they shall decided themselves.
So it will be easier for you,
and they will bear the burden with you.
23 If you do this, God will direct you,
you will be able to endure, and all this people also
will go to their place in peace."

This is such a practical and helpful piece of advice for anyone!  And it comes straight from the Word of God!!  With this passage in mind, how can you doubt the Bible as an ancient text that still miraculously speaks to us today??

And finally, a truly uplifting message from Unstuck:

"He made us in His image, 
and after we've stubbornly, arrogantly rejected Him 
to pursue sin (self-centeredness), 
He pursues us with incomprehensible passion 
to the moment of our very last breath.  
God loves you and me so much, 
He walked in our steps, 
wearing skin and feeling what we feel, 
and then took our sin to the cross, 
giving His own life to offer us eternal life with Him."
[emphasis added]

The God that created the Universe wore skin to be closer to us!  What love can compare to that?

Cleaning accomplishments...
These are things that I actually started/completed a few days ago, but hey, they're still worth mentioning.
1.  Magazines - I discovered 15 Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazines that I have kept for over a decade.  Man, once you start digging into what all's there, it's amazing how things seem to multiply!  I'm doing the same thing with these that I did with the Star Wars Insider magazines.  Looks like I may end up with 3 notebooks of page protector-ed "memories."  But that'll be okay since compared to the amount of space it all took up before, it's still a lot smaller :-)
2.  Books - Since I'm going to be giving a number of books away, I wanted to make a little bit of cash in the process.  I just found out about and am going to be using this website to see what I can get for some of my old books (all of which are in barely-used condition).  I'm also seeing what I can get through the University Supply Store.  Wish me luck!

I guess that's really it for now.  I'm gonna be doing some laundry and going through some more books today, but besides that, nothing really new to report.  It's just nice to finally be able to relax a bit :-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In the meantime...

As I am currently bogged down in biochemistry (final is tomorrow), I'm just going to leave you today with a link to a fabulous post on how to deal with difficult times in a Godly manner.

Our Hiding Place by Especially Heather


Monday, June 25, 2012

Too fantastic not to share...

Michael Hyatt has done it again.  I simply can't say enough about how helpful this blog for "leaders" truly is.

          At first glance, this seemed quite foreign.  But once I understand what was meant by margin, I found the notion highly relevant.
          Basically, many people (including myself) schedule about 120% of their time at the expense of their health, sleep, and time with God.  To actually use our time in the best way possible, we should instead (according to Richard Swensen, author of Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives) schedule only 80% of our time "leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way."  What could be more convincing than considering the possibilities of unexpected God moments?  I LOVE this outlook.
          Hyatt also provides a link to download an excel template for his Ideal Week spreadsheet.  This document quite creatively "labels" each day of the week with a theme and each time of day with a focus area.  
          I'll leave it at that and let you check out his post (linked above) to get the full effect of this much needed message.

          I'm gonna look over the template and try out scheduling my ideal week...not saying it's gonna work, but I figure I might as well give it a go.  Regardless, I will keep in mind the 80% :-)

Note: I have not read Swensen's book, but as soon as I get some cash on me, I'm definitely gonna read it (only $7.99 for Kindle).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 6

Good morning all, and happy Sunday :-)

I'm just gonna jump right in with Day 6's spiritual reflections.

-What does it mean to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
          I think the crux of this first and greatest commandment is doing everything in our lives as a sacrifice to Christ.  
          In our daily work we must strive to do our absolute best, whether that be at a job, school, or at home.  So many jobs exist on this planet as people are all made differently, and have different God-given desires, skills, passions, and callings.  God has revealed my calling to be teaching.  I am so excited to begin this journey and know that it will be a hard road; especially since the comment so many veteran teachers make in regards to my future plans is, "Why would you want to do that?!"  But by living out my love of Christ by putting my all into my work, I do honestly believe that it will be more rewarding than not.
          I won't go into too much detail here about loving God through our relationships as I expounded upon it in yesterday's post.  But I will say this, sacrificially loving others has got to be the absolute best way to live out God's love.
          Finances.  All of the money that each of us has is not ours; it is instead, God's.  We must always trust that He knows best in regards to sustaining us, and so give of ourselves financially, without complaint or worry, to organizations that spread the gospel and/or our home churches.  Remember this verse?:

But if God so clothes the grass, 
which is alive in the field today, 
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, 
how much more will He clothe you, 
O you of little faith!
-Luke 12:28

This is definitely an aspect of my love for God that needs some work.  I am utterly broke at the moment with no job for the summer and my savings depleted substantially after paying for summer classes.  Regardless, I need to trust in God's plan for me and remember the flowers that he clothes daily.  
          There are so many other aspects of our lives that I could mention here, but I'll end with just one of course!  Check out what I wrote in this post to understand what I mean.

v. 1b:  I have called you by name, 
you are Mine.

v. 19b: I will make a way in the wilderness 
and rivers in the desert.

These verses pretty much speak for themselves.  Even when we are in the most despairing conditions and feel lost and alone, God is there, and He will make a way.  He will provide us with life sustaining water to get us through the difficult times because we are His, we are children of the most high God.  Just think about the news stories of some powerfully faithful Haitians after the earthquake a few years ago.  There were people stuck in debris for days who spent that time of hopelessness constantly praying to God, knowing that He had a plan and that He was still taking care of them.  If they can trust in the Lord in such horrific times, then how much more should I be able to trust the Lord during difficult times in my life.  Depression is a powerful enemy, but as it says in verse 2a:

When you go through deep waters and great trouble,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown!

This is a verse that I need to hold on to with all my might and write on my heart so that it's hope and love will never ever leave me.
          I actually just (literally) came across an article in the newspaper this morning (well, it's from June 17) that shares a wonderful quote from Lorena Ewalt, married to Bruce Ewalt, and mother of their two children.  She happens to be an illegal immigrant who is leaving the country so that she can gain citizenship the legal way, leaving her children and husband (all born in America) behind in the process.  She says, "I am a good person, and I have put my trust in God.  I just believe He has a plan in America for me and my family."  Wow, talk about a difficult time, and what courage and grace she has in trusting God to take care of her and her family.

          Cleaning went well yesterday, although man can going through magazine after magazine get tedious after awhile!  I did in fact have 46 issues of Star Wars Insider - told ya...close to 50...craziness!!!  And in addition to those 46, about 8 more other publication with Star Wars on the cover.  I've now gone through all of them and greatly decreased the amount of space they take up...thank goodness.

Some questions to consider when decluttering magazines:
- Do I really care about every single article in this issue?
- Is this subject relevant to my life anymore? (certain pets for example)
- Are political magazines from several years ago really necessary to keep?
- Just because I like what's on the cover should I keep the whole magazine?
- Since I'm no longer 10 years old, should I really keep kid magazines about certain topics?
- Do periodicals from 3 or more years ago really need to be read in their entirety even if they are trade magazines, scientific journals, or alumni publications?  (I find this incredibly difficult, especially with trade publications.)

          Well, I'm incredibly close to being done with all of my magazines.  I came across several short stories in some of the Star Wars Insiders that I want to read (I've truly enjoyed each one I've read so far) so I have to do that before some of the issues can be thrown away.  And I still have about 5 Wildlife Professionals to look through.  After I do those 2 things, I'm putting all the magazines left over in my old school burlap and wood stand up magazine holder...for reading at my leisure.

          Lastly, I wanted to mention that I snuck in another 15 minute tornado clean on Friday; this time in my bathroom.  It really is incredibly lovely to have a sparkling bath tub, soap-residueless sink rim, and dustless decorations :-)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 5

So this is Day 5 (Yes I'm not treating each day as a new day in the challenge and that's something I definitely need to work I mentioned in the last post, I get so tired so easily and this is my downfall.)

Let's start with some good news about cleaning...
          In Sarah Mae's Day 9 post, she talks about being a cleaning tornado.  In other words, when you put all distractions out of mind out of sight and set your complete focus on cleaning for about 15 minutes.  She admits to enjoying mostly leisurely cleaning during which she takes her time, listens to music, thinks about other things, and sentimentalizes (I can't believe that's actually a word!) over all the stuff that needs to be cleaned.
          My first reaction to the Martha challenge to tornado clean was (looks like Sarah Mae and I think alike), "Are you kidding me?  If I'm going to feel good about getting rid of things then I have to spend time reminiscing and making sure I'm making the right decisions!"  Then I realized that there is a time and a place for tornado cleaning and a time and a place for sentimental decluttering.  This became painfully obvious when I stepped into my bedroom and thought, "Ya know, that pile of clean hoodies and pillowcases on the bed has been there for over a week long would it really take me to deal with them right here and now if I tornado clean my bedroom?"
          Well, I set myself to the task and managed to fold the clean clothes, move a couple things to their proper places in the guest room, put away winter jackets in my lovely woven chest, put clothes hanging on my easy-grab hooks (that were not honestly going to be worn again until washed) into my dirty clothes, folded my blankets and put them away, and more.  While I could probably still spend another 15 minutes making it look pristine, I certainly got a lot done.  Obviously, tornado cleaning is super useful and I may just have to implement this on a daily basis once I get to the point where I can maintain.  By then I should be able to do a fairly decent tornado clean of the whole apartment - oh how wonderful will that day be ;-p

          As you probably know by now, I oh so easily get off track and so I wanted to go ahead and mention a couple of other things I'm working on in the decluttering arena:

1.  Star Wars Insider magazines - ACK, I swear I have about 50 of these.  Since I can't just throw them all out (what self respecting Star Wars fan would do such a thing?), I most certainly cannot keep them as they are now.  So at this point, I'm going through each issue and pulling out the articles that most interest me and then stapling these to the issue's cover - recycling what's left.  I'll then put these "packets" 2 to a page protector in my favorite TV-shows/movies folder.  Having just one folder to reminisce through rather than gobs of magazines will save SO much space.  I went through this folder a few days ago (I've actually had it around for some time) and realized that I could staple articles together and put them 2 to a page rather than have every page visible - DUH!  If I really want to read an article, I'm not gonna sit there with a folder in my lap, but I'm gonna want to curl up with the pages themselves.  Yay for random space saving eureka moments!

2.  Books - This is the BIG one.  Yesterday I even did a Google search for tips on how to declutter bookshelves lol.  My eventual goal is to fit all of my books in 2 1/2 book shelves and from there I can spread them out where I want them.  Yes, I'm in my mid-20s and have enough books to fill about 4 full size book cases - while this is, in a sense, a good thing, it'll make it so difficult to move in the future.  I should know since it made it difficult to move here 3 years ago (and it's not like I quit accumulating)!  Progress on this project is going surprisingly well at the moment :-)
[As a side note - check out this AMAZING's bad :-(]

Now on to more spiritual matters:

John 15:12-17
Jesus says in verses 12 and 13  >>

12 "This is my commandment, 
that you love one another 
as I have loved you.  
13 Greater love has no one than this, 
that someone lay down his life 
for his friends."

          While this verse can be taken at face value as actual death to save another person, I think it means SO much more than that.  Laying down your life for others can simply mean sacrificially loving them just as Jesus sacrificially loved and loves us.  Giving of your time and energy to others is definitely a way of laying down your life for the benefit of others and a way of loving others as you would have them love you.  
          How many of us intensely desire to have other people care about us enough to expend their time and energy on us in particular?  I would venture to guess most everybody.  There is no greater way to feel loved than having someone put aside their own concerns for a time to just spend time with you or at least show you that you're on their mind.  The love of Christ can definitely be felt when others treat you like you're special, not just in general, but in particular to them.  
          When I get a Facebook note, text, call, or Skype message from my best friend (she happens to be in Iraq at the moment, why is she sooo far away?!?), I can't help but feel truly loved and thought about.  I know that I'm on her mind and that I mean something special to her and that can make all the difference in any bad day :-)  [The pics below are some great moments of the 2 of us back in college.  She's the blonde and I'm the brunette.]

Hardcore croquet ;-)

Post comps joy!!

          I need to remember this feeling as I go throughout each of my days.  There are plenty of people that I think about and pray for on a daily basis, but I don't reach out like I should to them so that they know I'm thinking about them and care for them.  I guess I'll make my own personal Mary challenge for the next week be to reach out to those I'm thinking about when I'm thinking about them.  I will lay down my life to lift up the lives of others.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 4

Once again, I'm behind in posting this - read it as if it was written on Sunday...*sigh*

WHY AM I CLEANING? - In Sarah Mae's Day 6 post, she asks this question.  And then she goes on in Day 8 to ask how we have felt loved and welcomed in other people's homes.  While the consideration of loving my family in my home by cleaning does not apply to me since I'm single, I can still consider my guests.  Do I really enjoy prefacing everyone's visit with, "I'm so sorry about the mess"?  The short answer, No!!  By organizing and cleaning all parts of my house I can much more easily focus on others and put all my attention on them rather than constantly worrying about the pile of clothes on the chair where they could be sitting or the random stack of papers in the middle of the floor.  I love how she makes the connection between thinking about these things and loving others sacrificially :-)  It really is so true!  How amazing is it that there are so many ways to show others the love of Christ?!?

1.  I actually cut out all yesterday's coupons!!  Can you believe it??  I'll file them today.
2.  T-shirts - So in regards to bedroom cleaning, I have had to go through a giant stack of t-shirts.  I've now gone through about 3/4s of them and it's gone really well.  I basically had 4 piles>>
          a. Everyday wear
          b. Sleep shirts (too big to wear out but incredibly comfortable)
          c. Shirts to keep for any future children
          d. Shirts to be used in a memory quilt
     I seem to wear the same t-shirts over and over so I wanted to go through the stack in my closet that I
  seemed to ignore.  Some of those ignored shirts remind me of some great times, are super comfortable,
  and fit really well - now that I have less in the "everyday wear" pile maybe I'll actually remember to
  wear these ignored clothes :-)
***My ultimate goal for clothes is to have every item that I wear stored in my bedroom.  Right now I have winter clothes in the guest room closet but never move them when winter comes around.  I actually walk back to that closet to grab clothes during winter!  This is completely inconducive (is that a word?) to when in God's timing I get I really want to be able to figure this out!!

1.  Finish going through the t-shirt pile.
2.  Sort all the books in my bedroom.

Another great quote from Chapter 2 - -

"Nearly every believer has felt separated from God, 
yet He's 'very near.'  
His Word is true, no matter what emotions suggest.  
It's a bumpy ride through life if we persist in succumbing 
to feelings, which can change like the wind. 
 But ignoring our inner state is unwise, 
for as sensations from physical nerve endings 
alert us to outer conditions, so our soul status 
often indicates how we need to pay attention 
and thus understand how God is guiding our lives."
[Emphasis added by me]

I really like this passage because I've always subscribed to the belief that we should ignore our emotions and follow through in obedience to God even when we feel incredibly emotionally cut off.  In addition, I have considered love to be an action of obedience to God's will for our lives, once again, in spite of our feelings/emotions.  But this is such a more helpful way to look at our emotions!!  If we are feeling off or down, yes, we should be obedient to God's desires despite these feelings (especially in His call for us to sacrificially love others), but we should NOT ignore them!!  In fact, emotions may be just what we need to center in on the root cause of our disconnectedness.  Like spiritual nerve endings, our emotions can help guide us into a better relationship with Christ and give us a solid focus for our prayers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 3

I finished reading Chapter 2 of Unstuck, and I'd like to share some of my favorite parts...

1.  Jesus was the kind of guy that would bloody your nose and then give you a ride home on his bike.  Apparently Rich Mullins made this analogy years ago.  What a great image: tough love and compassion all rolled into one :-)

2.  Spiritual burnout: "when our faith seems empty and meaningless, often because we've taken God out of the picture."
Spiritual deserts: "when our conversation with the Lord seems stifled or silent and we feel we can't sense His presence or discern His voice."
     Of these two states of being, spiritual desert is where I occasionally find myself.  I think my biggest roadblock is being impatient when having to wait on God to make things clear.  He always does, but usually in way more time than I would want!  Speaking of which, a recent decision in regards to my schooling has been made clear, after I stopped stressing over it and simply gave it over to Him of course - it truly is amazing how He works :-)

3.  A quote from Frank Laubach describing how Christ awakens us out of our stupor:

"If our destiny is to grow on and on and on, 
into some far more beautiful creatures than we are now, 
with more of the ideals of Christ, that means 
that we need to have the shells broken quite frequently 
so that we can grow."

This quote reminds me of the Jimmy Needham song "Hurricane" Hurricane - Not Without Love - a phenomenal piece of music that gets to the core of what it means to be in a true relationship with Christ.  He sings, "If you're the war, let me be the casualty" and "If destruction's what I need, then I'll receive it Lord from Thee."  These words have helped me through many a bad time in my life.

4.  John Wesley once said, 

"Catch on fire with enthusiasm, 
and people will come for miles 
to watch you burn."

Wow!!  No words...

I'm keeping this short and sweet because I've been working on this post for 2 days now and it just needs to be published...  Over the last few days I've discovered another barrier to my spending time with Christ - I'm always SO TIRED!!!  Exhaustion just saps me so much that once I'm done with school work I can't seem to get up the energy to deeply focus my mind on Him.  I get plenty of sleep so I'm not really sure what the problem is, but it definitely makes connecting with Christ, beyond the act of prayer, a difficult endeavor.  Guess I need to pray about it!

Cleaning:  Well, I really haven't done all that much with this since I spent all day today with schoolwork and I've just been, as I previously mentioned, so tired.  I have managed to pull out a stack of shirts to try on to determine what to do with, so that's something...  Also, my email has been piling up horrendously fast and I have spent way too much time whittling it seems I'm not only a tangible packrat, but a digital packrat as well!!!  AAACCCKK :-O

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"We Bought a Zoo" = Amazing ;-)

Okay, so we all know that there is in fact a time and place for everything.  I just spent a couple of hours earlier today watching "We Bought a Zoo" with my almost full attention...and it was well worth it.  Finally a movie without questions, ambiguity, and artsy stuckupness.  The beautiful animals that graced the screen all throughout the movie and the interactions the characters had with them allowed this movie to start at 3 stars from the get go.  Add in the smart, bubbly, and too-cute-to-fathom 7 year old Rosy and you get 4 stars.  Sandwich an uplifting, heart warming, and meaningful story between a solid beginning and a PERFECT ending and "We Bought a Zoo" absolutely gets 5 stars in my book!!

Just see it.  Unless you're one of those people who feels that you're too cool for school, then you really won't be able to help but at least smile :-)

Yes I spent this time doing nothing but "vegging out," but honestly, I think sometimes that "vegging" is just a necessity.  Not everyday for sure!  But on the rare occasion, yes.  {Plus I had a $1/1 code for BBX lol and just couldn't help myself.}

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ - Day 2

Unstuck  - 1 Peter 2:19-25 :: What holds me back from running towards God to grow spiritually?

Two things come to mind:
1.  I'm "too busy"
2.  I get super anxious when I'm not "getting stuff done"

      Okay, so maybe both of those have to do with my having a busybody personality...looks like I might be more of a Martha than a Mary :-/
      I came across a great brief devotional on called "Rest" that provided some honest insight into this downfall of many many humans.  As this article states, rest is not just inactivity, but instead, a state of being.  It goes on to quote Augustine when he said, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."  We need time with God to cure the anxiousness and restlessness that resides in our sinful hearts.  Plus, how arrogant is it to say, "I'm too busy to spend time with the Creator of the Universe."?!?!?

This pic taken from my balcony makes me think of rest in its best form ;-)

      I get so caught up in school stuff and convince myself that I have little time for relaxing and rejuvenating myself in any way, most especially in abiding in Christ.  But if I honestly examine how I approach school stuff, it becomes blatantly clear that I hardly ever really focus and am instead doing a million other things at the same time which obviously causes my school work to take way longer than it really should!
      As the article also points out, sitting in front of the TV does not = Rest.  And think about it, if we get caught up in watching a particular show, *cough* Monk *cough*, it really is not too long before we realize that one episode is over and we got so very little actually accomplished.  Wouldn't sitting for hours on end absorbed in TV just make us more restless in the end because we did not get anything done?
      When we take time to sit with Christ and focus on Him though, we are accomplishing something, something that is nearly unfathomable in it's scope and power!  I will definitely keep this in mind next time I decide to forego time with Christ for something far less important.

Clean - The Mary Challenge in Sarah Mae's Day 4 post (obviously I'm doing all this at my own pace lol) is to look up instances of the words "lazy" and "diligent" in the Bible.  I found a couple of really great ones, including one that has been misinterpreted to a degree and used to support a very non-Christian way of thinking.

Proverbs 10:4 >>
Lazy hands make for poverty, 
but diligent hands bring wealth.

      Yeah so, at face value, this proverb sounds incredibly harsh and unforgiving, but it turns out that it's more of a message to how we should approach our relationship with God rather than about economic poverty.  And even then, when this verse is interpreted from the flip side, it is not saying that all fiscally poor people are lazy!!  If we are lazy in spending time with God and getting to know Him better, then our souls will be impoverished.  If we are diligent in spending time with our Lord and Savior, then our souls will be wealthy and satisfied.  I located a commentary on this verse with a fabulous quote that really puts it well:

"It would be a libel on the Divine economy
to imagine that the tender plant of grace 
would thrive in a sluggard's garden.
The work is difficult, the times are bad.  
He who would gain in godliness must
put his soul into the business.  
But he who puts his soul into the business
will grow rich.  When all [accounts] are closed
he who is rich in faith is the richest man." 

How powerful is that??  I think it speaks for itself :-)

1 Timothy 4:15-16>>
Be diligent in these matters;
give yourself wholly to them, 
so that everyone may see your progress.  
Watch your life and doctrine closely.  
Persevere in them, because if you do, 
you will save both yourself and your hearers.

      This is such a fantastic passage and personally resonates with me in the way I have handled afflictions in the past.  When dealing with some really rough circumstances, and I'm not just talking about horrific breakups btw, I've turned to Christ.  I love relaying these tales of woe and rejuvenation to Christians and non-Christians alike because they show just how powerful the love, grace, and mercy of Christ truly is!  I don't mind reliving bad situations when it means sharing my Savior with others :-) The last phrase of this passage should be the most "hit you in the face" - - you will save both yourself and your hearers.  Talk about a LOT of responsibility that we have as followers of Christ!!  But this just goes to show that being a Christian is more than about loving other people; it's about showing others that you can persevere through the toughest of times and that the source of that perseverance is Christ Himself.

The Martha Challenge involved cleaning up my bedroom closet, dresser, and chest of drawers.  

1.  My closet looks fantastic now!  Granted I only had to do a couple of very minor things to get it to look so good, but man those little tiny things just pile up and pile up until they become a mountain, so I'm glad to have completed them.
     a. I finally hung my blue Swedish wooden shadow-box and since
         the frame I had the photograph of my Mormor (mother's mother
         in Swedish) in broke over a month I said, little
         things...I put it in the shadow box along with several small
         trinkets that have been hogging a lot of space on my dresser.
     b. Moved my winter accessories box to the back room.
     c. Pulled the 2 stackable boxes that were holding my hoodies
         down from the unreachable top shelf (I'm only 5' 1"...) and put
         them on the floor next to the other similar boxes.
     d. I then could spread out my bedding on the top shelf into
         matching stacks which will prevent them from falling on my
     e. Moved the clothes I'm keeping for if I have a daughter in the
         future to a large rubbermaid container rather than the shopping
         bag they were in.
      f. Put my house pants/sweats in one of the stackable boxes on the
         floor - they just take up WAY too much space to keep them all
         in one drawer.

2. I've started on my dresser as well.
      a. Dusted the top of it (LONG overdue!)
      b. Only put back a few trinkets...put several in the above
          mentioned shadow box.

     I'll continue working on the contents of my dresser/chest of drawers today as well as tackle my night stand and bookcase (actually a shoe shelf lol).  

Pictures are forthcoming :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Getting unstuck in my walk with Christ: 2 studies

After last month's attempt to follow a bootcamp like regimen to get my house organized and clean, I realized that that method is just not for me.  So this month I'm trying something different and am so incredibly excited about it!

Both of the resources that I'm going to be blogging about for the next few weeks came into my life quite serendipitously.  First off, I've started signing up monthly to get books mailed to me from Bethany House Publishers to review (remember The Messenger by Siri Mitchell?) and the one I just received is called Unstuck: Your Life. God's Design. Real Change. by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross.  One of my favorite book genres is Christian non-fiction and so I of course started reading it immediately.  The book's setup is perfectly suited for a 45-day study in growing closer to Christ.  Depending on how my in-depth passage studies go each day, I might combine a couple or more days into 1.  Although I do want to take this slow and really engage with the material and with my heart this month.  I've strayed so far from focusing daily...or even weekly...on God's word and as is true every time, my emotional/spiritual/mental state has suffered for it.  [More on this study after I introduce the 2nd.]

Secondly, I started receiving Sarah Mae blog updates after a MoneySavingMom post mentioned a free ebook to be had if only you subscribed to the Sarah Mae blog (remember Frumps to Pumps?).  Well I've greatly enjoyed receiving email updates from this blog (she is amazing at getting to the spiritual heart of issues) and just this morning I noticed a great new series she's doing called "31 Days to Clean: A Martha House the Mary Way."  Funny how I recently posted on one of the posts in this series without realizing just how impactful diligently following along with the series could be.  Basically, she focuses on clearing out the clutter in our hearts, spirits, and minds so that we can really focus on God while at the same time making little moves to clean our houses.  Wow!  What a powerful and truly meaningful combination of tasks.  The coolest thing is the way the challenges are separated into a Martha Challenge (the house cleaning one) and a Mary Challenge (the God focusing one).  Love love :-)

So to begin...
DAY 1 - 
Unstuck:  I've read Chapter 1, and talk about some amazing insights!  My favorite is a super Captain Obvious one that is something Christians often overlook: The Bible was written by GOD!  I mean really, how absolutely amazing and comforting is that?  We have tangible access to a book that God breathed.  Why then do we so often ignore this fact and allow our copies of The Bible to become paperweights or simply coffee table books?  Sadly, I must admit that I've fallen into this pattern and have to start the journey again to realize just how powerful this fact is.

Revelation 21:1-4 : What causes me to feel hopeless at times?
*Sigh* this is a big question and unfortunately, some of the things mentioned in this passage of Revelation are part of what gets to the heart of my hopelessness sometimes.  I have a lot of questions and, admittedly, misgivings about the millennial Earth.  No ocean?!?  How could that possibly be a beautiful thing?  What about all the majestic creatures that live there?  What about the cool breezes that blow over the breakers and tint the air with a hint of salt?  Don't even get me started on heaven...a golden city?  A mansion for each person?  No marriage?  I can't say that ANY of these questions are comforting and they all leave me feeling so incredibly hopeless.  I love Christ and want to be as close to Him as possible, but I also love nature and the beautiful creation that He made.  I find my most peaceful moments when I'm laying down outside and listening to the noises made by God's creatures.  Tack all of these questions on to the idea of living forever and it just sounds like a recipe for misery :-(  God has done so much for me in this earthly life and Jesus has been a truly uplifting presence in some incredibly horrific life circumstances - I just have a really difficult time reconciling the way God made me with the way heaven and the millennial Earth are supposed to be.  I welcome any and all insights!
- I guess this was actually a truly beneficial passage to begin with on this journey as it digs up some of my worst fears and gives me a perfect starting point for engaging deeply with scripture.

Since I've already posted on the distractions in my life, I'm going to write a little about the Day 2 Mary Challenge: focus on Psalm 119.  Yes this is the longest of all the Psalms but man does it have some wonderful verses.  I came across 2 that really struck me.

     Psalm 119:71 - It is good for me that I was afflicted,
                                          That I may learn Your statutes.
                           75 - I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,
                                                  And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

I have been through a number of afflictions in my life - mostly emotional, but some physical - and ever since I've become a Christian, I've looked on these things as God-given pathways to Jesus Himself.  While sometimes it takes some time before I recognize the hopefulness in helplessness, there have been moments when my first reaction is to run full speed to God wanting His protection and guidance.  See, that's just it, the essence of a true Christian's faith, we have hope because we are helpless!!  Knowing that I have Christ living in me and the Holy Father watching from above and the Holy Spirit always ready to guide me in the right direction, I can have nothing but hope.  When our pride gets in the way, that's when things fall apart.  We think that we can help ourselves and instead find that doing life on our own is just not the best way to a fulfilled heart and soul.  By admitting helplessness, we open ourselves up to the most powerful agent in the Universe - GOD!!  If living life in a manner of helplessness means that I can instead rely on the love and guidance of my Creator to light my way, then all I can do is surrender and thank God for His presence in my life.

I hope you'll consider joining me on this journey of reflection and engagement with the Word and with Christ.  I think that if anything is going to help me feel more organized and put together, it's going to be the presence of God.

Parting prayer:  Lord, I surrender to you and admit that I am helpless and cannot do this on my own.  No matter what I try, I fail at being places on time, doing things early, maintaing a neat house, among so many other things that only You know.  Please lead me and guide me this month in my journey to recapture the "first love" feeling of following and knowing you. - Amen

Monday, June 4, 2012

A couple of super helpful posts

I have come across 2 amazing blog posts that I'd like to share.  One is from...drumroll...Michael Hyatt (I'm telling you, this guy is good!) and the other is from Sarah Mae.  Both posts are aimed at making your life more fulfilling and more productive.  Most importantly though, they're about being honest with yourself.

How to Say No When You Feel Pressured to Say Yes from Michael Hyatt - My thoughts

Oh saying's NEVER easy for me.  I've only just recently begun turning people down for events, trips, and hanging out.  It was really hard for me to acknowledge that if I'm really really sleepy, I should just go to bed and not give in to the desires of others.  Also, while I may think that I'm super human and can get a lot of school work done in a short amount of time, if I really do have a ridiculous amount of work to do, I should set aside time to do it no matter what comes up.  Now I realize that it's also important to spend time with others and to make that a priority.  But jumping to a yes when someone asks you to drive them to a concert over 5 hours away - that's the problem here.  MH lays out 3 ways that we respond to people asking us to do something that we don't want to do.  I'm of the accommodation camp 90+% of the time b/c I have an unhealthy need to make everyone else happy at the detriment to my own happiness.  And many times I end up feeling frustrated and slightly angry towards people b/c they're making me do something I don't want to do even though I was the one who said Yes!!!  Now, there is a sort of fine line here with the reality of love, which is in essence giving to others for their benefit irregardless of what would benefit yourself.  I do think that these 2 concepts can be reconciled though - if we are internally unproductive, angry, and debt-burdened people how are we to even begin to hear what God desires in our lives?  Plus, am I saying yes b/c I love people, or b/c I fear that if I say no, people will despise me?  I think by really being honest about these questions I can develop a much healthier attitude towards saying both no and yes in a way that pleases God.

Distractions from Sarah Mae - My thoughts

Most of us are probably acutely aware of the curse of Netflix.  You know, finding that TV show that sucks you in and then being able to watch episode after episode until you've watched an entire season and then - oh wait - you can go on to the next season without any delay!  This is how I've watched Heroes, Jericho, The Event, Law and Order: SVU, and more I'm sure.

Right now I'm over half-way through Monk.  The problem is that I consider myself a multi-tasker and so I'm always doing other things while watching these shows.  But if I'm really honest with myself, I never seem to get all that much done.  Tasks that should take some 20 minutes end up taking 2 hours.  Case in point, I watched Jericho while writing a paper in college - yes, I was up ALL night finishing that sucker.  While in a sense, having a TV show to keep oneself occupied can make focusing more bearable for someone with undiagnosed ADD, it also probably decreases the quality of the product in the end (although I did make an A on that paper in college...).  Regardless, when considering my home organizational goals for this summer, I'm not so sure how well it's working to have Monk on while I'm trying to accomplish tasks.  It really is just too distracting.  I'm still not ready to give up on having some sort of white noise in the background, and just having music on makes me anxious for some reason.  So I think the answer may be to turn on some good 'ole HGTV while I'm working.  With that, I've got built in motivation and inspiration and I don't really have to pay attention at all to know what's going on.  I'm gonna give it a whirl cuz Lord knows I've GOT to continue the organizational progress I've made so far in a timely manner.

Next step...the hard part...putting it all into action...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review - Prom Night and Other Man-made Disasters

Hello all, I pray summer is treating you well thus far :-)
Tonight I just wanted to go ahead and write up this review.  There's so many things I want to post about, but I've been quite under the weather for the past 2 days and whenever that happens, my brain likes to take a break *sigh*.

Prom Night and Other Man-made Disasters by Mark Coggins (Book #28 of 2012)

This was a highly entertaining collection of memoir short stories from throughout the author's life.  With self-deprecating humor and occurrences that I thought could only ever happen to me, this book was definitely a breath of fresh air.  It's so nice to know that I'm not the only crazy, hapless person on this planet.  Although I'm not sure that I would dress up like a chicken when greeting my significant other at the train station...yes, the author did that, and even included a photograph as proof!!  On the other hand, the story he told about working at his grandfather's "ranch" was totally a situation that I would find myself in.  Just like the author, if I'm told to fix something or if I manage to break something (in his case it was a giant tractor), then I do everything in my power to get it done any way that I can...even if with hindsight, the methods used were completely ridiculous and possibly even death-defying...  I'm definitely not one to be told that I'm not capable of doing something.  Basically, he used tools that were never meant to be used on a machine of that size and had to use quite a bit of elbow grease to make it all work - of course it did in the end.  Never doubt the power of belief that you can accomplish a crazy feat with only a few flimsy materials to work  Oh yeah, and accidentally setting an entire open weed and thorn infested field on fire...very akin to a certain thing that happened a few years ago to brother...that...well...I just don't talk about it...  Anyway, Mark's stories range from tales of love gone terribly wrong (can definitely relate there), stupid ill-thought out ideas (once again, sounds familiar), and, as I just mentioned, death-defying determination to pull off crazy stunts.  There's something for everybody in this collection and I highly recommend it!
As to the author himself, I received a hardcopy in the mail that was signed by him right before he mailed it off and had a hand written note placed between the pages.  He even responded very thoughtfully to a question I posed on LibraryThing's author chat.  It's such a cool thing to actually interact with the authors of books you read!!

Note: I won this book as part of a Member Giveaway on LibraryThing, but all the comments above are 100% honest.