Monday, December 21, 2009

Pursue God Daily

I was out and about today running errands with my family and I was struck by all of the "stuff" around me. Do we know what a blessed nation we are? Or are we? Have we realized that this is all meaningless? Have we realized how much work we have made for ourselves trying to organize all of our STUFF! We buy bins, shelves, hooks,and baskets, just to try to manage all of this stuff! I am probably the most guilty when it comes to organizing stuff, truly meaningless things.

In the check out line I just ponder for a minute - and the noise of the beep beep beep beep sound of the cash registers is loud and quite annoying! I began thinking about Proverbs 23:5 which says, "Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky line an eagle."

So that brings me to the question: Are riches stable? I think about what is happening on Wall Street and Main Street and in our Capital right now. For many, their life savings or retirement just grew wings in the last month and flew away. So many have lost so much! All that hard work and labor...completely gone... meaningless.

When I got home and had a quiet moment I starting reading Ecclesiastes which was written by King Solomon, one of the richest men who ever lived. A bold question came to my mind. What do we do? The book of Ecclesiastes comes to a close with 3 conclusions. Chapter 12 tells us to "Fear God", "Keep God's commandments", be prepared for judgment day because "God will bring every deed into judgment including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

So I challenged myself to rid my home and my life of the meaningless things around me. I am going to "attempt" to use everything in my home this month. I know that sounds crazy, but I honestly want to see how much excess we have here in our home.
By having so much stuff in our home that is not necessary, what are we teaching our children? Are we fearing God and keeping his commands in America? Are we ready for judgment day? For me, I have realized that my family needs to get back to the basics of life. The simple, yet beautiful things...not striving for the biggest accumulation of "stuff." For my family, success is not measured by who has the bigger pile of stuff, but who pursues God and his desires for our lives on a daily basis. The real question is do we pursue stuff or pursue God?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bring The Rain...

It is truly a spiritually mature person who never considers a prayer unanswered. How do they do that? There is so much in life that just seems to happen, regardless of how much we pray.

I heard Joyce Meyer, one of my favorite teachers, say that we always pray for God to change our circumstances when God actually uses our circumstances to change us. I must say that yes, I've been changed. I will never forget the feeling of heartache and abandonment that I felt when Tom and I miscarried. I was devastated and I felt as though God had forgotten about me. I prayed for the hurt to subside. I prayed for the courage to face the coming days. I prayed for God to give us a child to love. None of those things happened right away. However, I was changed in the process. I believe that God allowed Tom and I to experience these feelings to that He could use them to mold us into the people He wants us to be. God has used the trials in our life as a couple to develop patience, (at least most days), trust, compassion for others and faith in Him that he's got a plan no matter how things look to us.

Okay, so I've asked God if I can give him input about how the plan should turn out. And yes, I've asked him to send a timetable just so we're all on the same page. I'm pretty sure I saw God rolling his eyes about that last one. :)

There is a song by Mercy Me called, "Bring the Rain." When I first heard that song I couldn't even imagine how much spiritual maturity it would take for someone to sing:

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free.
Bring me anything that brings You glory.
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain,
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain.

I don't know many people who are at that place in their journey. As I see my faith stretched daily, I feel that Tom and I have come to a place where we can say, "God, I want what you want. If what I want isn't what you want, then change my mind."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't wait

"Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." Ecclesiastes 11:4

If you are like me, sometimes I find myself waiting for all the right conditions before I do what I know the Lord has called me to do. In truth, I may be waiting a long time. How many times have you said something to the effect... I'll do it when my children are grown so I'll have more time; or I'll do it when I get a promotion because I'll be in a better position it give; or when my husband feels called as well so then I'll have the support that I need; or when I get a better education I'll be better equipped to handle the task; etc? Too often we put off the important things...the things of God in our lives because everything is not just perfect around us- we want things to be just status quo before we'll make a move. God doesn't work that way. What we don't realize is that only in our human brokenness are we fully able to "drop our nets and follow Him."

I am a firm believer that the Lord gives us trials to groom and shape us into the godly servants that He has called Christians to be. This process is certainly not comfortable or enjoyable most of the time, but the results in the heart are worth every moment of pain endured. In my experience I wait to submit myself to the Lord's plan for my life out of fear and lack of control, but what I now realize is that God will work in my life as He sees fit with my approval or not! So wouldn't it be more becoming of me to submit to His authority in my life FIRST? I am very much a planner and a perfectionist. I can honestly say at times that these traits have hindered me as a Christian, a wife, and mother. No one expects perfect: not God, not my husband, and certainly not my one year old daughter. Why do I feel such an intense need for perfection? I do not want to submit unless I know that I can complete the task perfectly...which is impossible.

So, I would encourage you to give your heart and your soul to the service and the purpose that the Lord has for you. As I look for new opportunities in my life I am earnestly seeking His will. I pray that God will show me where he wants me to be. When people ask what I want to do I say" What ever the Lord will have me do." There is so much freedom in submission of my life to the One who created me! He knows the number of hair on my head so I think that He is MUCH more qualified to make those decisions that me. What a blessing it has been for me to endure a difficult grooming process. I would not take a minute back because I know that God is using the trials in my life to make me who He wants me to be. There is no greater joy in my life than knowing that I am living in His will, wholly and completely.

I was reading this week about Joshua and I really connected personally with his encounter with God. When God told Joshua that it was time to enter into the promised land, He told him to send the priest out first. The priest was suppose to step in the water of the Jordan River to cross over. What if they had waited for the conditions to be just right? What if their attitude had been, "We'll go into the river when God rolls it back, or removes the water, or builds a bridge, that way we won't get our shoes wet." As we look in the Bible we see that many of God's servants did not always have all the perfect conditions to work in, but they did it anyway... they took a step of faith. The right condition for Gideon would have been to have a big army with him, but the Lord cut it back to 300.... not the right conditions to win a battle.

Waiting for the right conditions means we are waiting on the conditions that we have chosen- we want to do it our own way, in our own time. God chooses the conditions and they may not always seem favorable in our eyes. Stop waiting for all the right conditions- conditions of your own choosing. Because even if the conditions did change and they became exactly like you wanted them you would still wind up finding another "reason" to go down your own path. Don't wait for everything to be perfect; don't wait for things to change; because in both cases... it just may not happen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

27 Reasons

I was thinking today about how grateful I am to have such a loving and kind husband who in so many ways makes my life a million times better each day! I decided to make a list of 27 things that I love about him for the 27 years of his life. That was a meaningful exercise for me, one of reminiscing and contemplating the beauty in our lives.

1. The first time I met him, he had this sparkle in his eyes, after a decade it is still there.
2. His laugh is infectious.
3. His servant's heart
4. His heart for "outsiders" and people on the fringe- In social situations his first steps are towards those who look "out of place," or lonely, or new. This humbles me beyond belief.
5. How he loves my family, no matter how annoying we can be at times.
6. The look on his face and the tears in his eyes when he saw Julia for the first time. I will never, ever forget it.
7. How 3 years later and 10 pounds heavier, I still believe without a shadow of a doubt that he thinks I am the most beautiful and desirable woman on the planet.
8. He is slow to speak- he listens well, and shares what he thinks only if it is beneficial and not just to hear himself speak or to air his opinions.
9. He thinks I'm funny!
10. He cares deeply about his friends.
11. He loves decorating the Christmas tree just as much as I do.
12. He understands his brokenness and His need for Christ daily, hourly.
13. He yearns to do everything in his power to ensure that my needs and Julia's needs are taken care of, even if that means putting himself last.
14. He is a hard worker, and loves to be challenged.
15. He loves music more than anyone I've ever met. He plays air drums in the car and air guitar in the kitchen. I love that!
16. He is an amazing father.
17. He doesn't get upset or stressed out if the house isn't perfectly picked up for him and dinner on the table just right when he gets home from work. I want to keep a clean home and provide yummy, nutritious meals for him and be a good help to him not because he demands it but because he is so gracious with me and appreciative of the things I do for him.
18. He is so quick to forgive, and doesn't hold a grudge.
19. He doesn't complain when I ask him to change poopy diapers or wash the dishes for me.
20. He reads to Julia, prays with her, and sings to her. I listen to them and it melts my heart every time.
21. He enjoys cooking as a family. There is such a sweetness in the three of us spending time together in the kitchen.
22. He makes me think about things in new ways.
23. He works evenings so that he can spend the days with his girls.
24. He will always be a mountain boy at heart, and now he also shares my love for the beach.
25. He loves to be outdoors- hiking and camping, fishing, and snowboarding...
26. He loves the Lord more than he loves me, and this is why I can trust him and follow him.
27. He puts my needs before his own, and loves me so well.
28. He is my best friend.

Every year there are more and more reasons why I love you, Tom. I am thankful for your life, and for the man that you are and the man God is molding you to be. I am humbled by you, delighted in you, and blessed to have been chosen by God to be your wife.

Manna from heaven...

I was chatting with my Nana the other day and we began talking about the ways that God has blessed us in our lifetime. From seemingly large gifts of love to small acts of kindness we shared our blessings with each other. What a beautiful way to connect with the ones you love.
She shared a story that she has told me numerous times, but this time I saw the blessing differently than I have in the past. When my grandpa was 33 he had his first heart attack. Living in southern Ohio, there was no intense research for young men with heart disease. They traveled to the Mayo Clinic hours away in Cleavland to seek surgery and treatment. As a young mother of 5 children it was heart wrenching for her to leave her babies for such a long period of time. My dad, the oldest, was 13 and the youngest was 1. Financially, my grandparents were going through a rough time. My grandpa was the breadwinner and my grandmother nurtured their little clan of children in the home. When they arrived at the Mayo Clinic, they were graciously welcomed by family friends who allowed my Nana to stay with them while my grandpa was in the hospital. God had blessed them richly by the christian friendships, the warm bed, and the food that was provided. My Nana was so grateful and yet her heart ached to hear the voices of her babies. She had been gone for months and she needed hear their giggles and laughter that filled their home on a daily basis. Long distance calls were very expensive and she didn't have the money to stay on the phone long enough to talk to eat child before the pay phone would cut off. One day at the hospital, she found a quarter on the ground. She was thrilled at the thought of having a minute or two to connect with the loves of her life. When she put the quarter in the pay phone about one hundred quarters came rolling out of the coin return! She cried out to God and thanked Him for the blessing if allowing her to hear her children's voices more than once a week! She described the event to me, saying it was like "Manna from heaven." For the remainder of her time at the Mayo Clinic, she called her babies everyday and she was able to speak to each of them. Even the seemingly smallest blessings can provide more joy than we may ever know. How beautiful to see God's grace and mercy come to life in a pay phone. Whoever says miracles don't happen obviously hasn't met my Nana.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Grateful Heart Part 2

The grateful heart is a magnet that attracts more blessings. How is this possible? Well, the blessings were always there; we just didn't see them. Gratitude clears the haze that obscures the gifts surrounding us. To be enlightened is to live a life of gratitude. I found a quote by Johannes A. Gaertner that read, "To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."

Are you living in a garden of abundance and joy or in a barren wilderness? Whatever your situation, both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend. When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present: love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure...the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth. To me that is pretty powerful!

Our decision on whether we focus on the positive or the negative determines whether we live in heaven or hell. For example, when the going gets tough, do we focus on the unpleasantness or are we thankful for the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson?

The rewards of gratitude are many. It will change a life of emptiness to one of fulfillment. Unappreciative people are never satisfied and live empty lives. If we do not appreciate what we have now, how can we enjoy what we hope to have in the future? To have what you want; learn to want what you have. Also, when we are fully aware of the treasures we already have, we eliminate worry, fear, greed, and envy.

Just something to ponder...are you truly grateful or just a little thankful?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stress has no place...

Do not worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. And God's peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives is so great that we cannot understand it.

~Philippians 4:6-7

Stress management is a spiritual discipline that begins with diligent preparation in every area of life - mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. We must be ready to deal with stress before we are required to deal with stress. Dealing with stress is an ongoing, daily battle that will not end - this side of Heaven. In order to win that battle, we must be prepared. While there is no single secret to handling stress, God's Word is filled with many truths that can enable and empower us to deal with stress in a healthy, productive and God-honoring way.

Sometimes the most familiar passages of scripture are also the most overlooked. Psalm 23 is one of those passages. I often find myself rushing to this psalm for peace and comfort in the aftermath of a stressful situation or for guidance and shelter from the storm that I see barreling straight for the unprepared shores of my life. However, I have also discovered that Psalm 23 is a powerful tool for dealing with stress on an everyday basis.

If you are like me, I tend to handle the major calamities in life better than the mundane, ordinary but definitely stress-inducing issues of daily living. A study of Psalm 23 has led me to believe that it is often the small pebble in my shoe, rather than the massive boulder on my path, that causes the greatest stress in my life. The awesome thing is that God is there daily to help me with these issues if I just ask.

He promises to be my shepherd, to lead and guide me, to provide my every need, to protect me from my enemies, to fill my heart with peace, and to stand between me and my greatest fears. God delivered a profound message when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us each and every day. Jesus could have come to us in many ways but He chose to interrupt the ordinary with the extraordinary! Jesus could rightfully have been born in a palace. He was, after all, a King. Yet His life on earth began in a manger - a smelly, dusty, dirty and definitely common barn. The simplicity of His birth is one of His most precious gifts to us and a constant reminder that He really does care about everything that touches our lives - no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. God wants to be involved in the simple, ordinary happenings of each day.

While I cannot imagine my world without the presence and power of Jesus Christ, I am often guilty of living as if He does not exist. The result is a stress-filled life. A trial comes and I try to handle it on my own. Loneliness empties my heart and instead of reaching out to Him, I withdraw into the darkness where stress is waiting to fill that emptiness with anxiety and fear. Still, God is faithful. His peace is a soothing balm that leads me once again to the manger and away from stress. He steps into my life and changes everything. When He comes, stress is stripped away, tranquility given in its place.

When I find myself wishing I could have been there that holy night when Jesus was born, He gently reminds me that I had my own manger experience, when God became a personal reality in my life. I have my own holy moments each and every day as I reach out to Him and He is there, right in the middle of my common, ordinary and often smelly circumstances.

Stress has no place in a heart that kneels before the manger. Stress is powerless in a life that continually seeks God and chooses to surrender to His love and care - like the sheep surrender to the love and care of their Shepherd. Psalm 23 describes the intimate, personal and trusting relationship between sheep and shepherd, between child and father, and is not only a beautiful portrait of God's complete and faithful provision, but an arsenal of stress-busting truths and principles that, when embraced and applied, will empower and equip us to live a life of peace and victory. How awesome is that?!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Feeling Brave

When I was 5 years old, I remember vividly the process of learning to ride my bike. I wanted to practice any chance that I got and I passionately rode that bike when I did. At that point, I had ditched my training wheels. Mom and dad were guiding me through the learning stages in our side yard so that if I did fall I would land softly. Even when I felt like I had gotten the hang of it, I preferred that my mom or dad walk beside me. I had pedaled away on my own a few times just because I was out of control, but I still liked it better when my parents could be right there.

I remember when Dad felt that I had finally mastered it and he felt that I was able to freely ride away. I said, “I still need your help, though. So walk by me, and put your hand on my back. Just a little; not too much. When you do that, it helps me feel brave.”

I knew that when he placed his hand on my back, at about shoulder-blade level, I rode better and faster. But I had never thought about it in terms of his touch giving me courage until now.

Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what our Father does for us?

God knows that sometimes, we’re uncertain. Sometimes, we’re not all that brave. Other times, we’re just plain scared. So He places His hand at our back as we try to figure out how to balance. His touch is light enough so we can stretch our wings a little, but heavy enough to remind us He’s there. And He walks along beside us as we head into the unknown.

I wonder what you and I would have the confidence to attempt if we could truly grasp the fact that God’s hand is keeping us from falling.

Granted, there are times bad things do happen to us, which God chooses not to prevent. But I am describing here what happens when God calls us to do something. In other words, He asks us to learn to ride.

God never calls us to something we’re unable to do, then refuses to help us learn to do it. He doesn’t set us up to fail. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be able to perform the work He has for us. So He does everything in His incredible power to fit us for fulfilling our calling.

For me, I am learning how to dive deep into bible study. I am also trying to reach out to people more often and encourage others. For sure, I am trying to be the best wife and mother that I can be.

We never make the attempt alone. God is with us, and He’s even closer than right beside us. If we are His children, His spirit is within us. He will see us through this process we’ve started, for as long as it takes. For as long as it takes...what a testimony of His love for us!

I wonder what kind of confidence it would give us if we only realized that God is right there throughout our attempts.

We could start forward in boldness, knowing that God will catch us if we begin to fall. After all, can we not trust Him to enable us to successfully perform that which He’s called us to do? I know my parents could protect me when I rode my bike and any loving thing they did was only an imperfect shadow of what our Heavenly Father can do for us.

Every time I wanted to go outside and practice riding I placed my trust in my parents. Why? Because I knew that they had been trustworthy in the past, and I had confidence in their ability to keep me safe.

God is infinitely more trustworthy than even the best parent in the world, and He is certainly more able. Should we then not have far greater confidence in our Father than I had in my mom and dad?

I knew that I couldn't ride my bike on my own. You and I know that we can’t fulfill what God has asked us to do on our own. But just as I could ride with my parent's help, we can accomplish anything God has called us to do when we have His enabling power—which is always.

Is there some area in your life where you’re still standing up on the porch, looking at the bike, afraid to get on and try? Have you forgotten that with your Father’s help, you can ride?

Come down off the porch. Our Father is waiting to help you.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
-Philippians 4:13

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Grateful Heart

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
-Melody Beattie

I was encouraged by someone in my life to start a "Gratitude Journal." I now know that it has the power to change the quality of my life beyond belief. I have a beautiful blank book and each night before I go to bed, I write down five things that I can be grateful about that day. Some days my list will be filled with amazing things, most days just simple joys.

Other days--rough ones--I might think that I don't have five things to be grateful for, so I'll write down my basics: my health, my husband and daughter, their health, my sweet dog, my home, my friends, and the comfortable bed that I'm about to get into, as well as the fact that the day's over. That's okay too. Gratitude is gratitude. Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go my way, but the recurring acknowledgment of what is working in my life can help me not only survive, but surmount my difficulties.

The gratitude journal is a tangible reminder of what God is doing in my life and how many positive elements of my life that I can see everyday. I want to find simple abundance in my life and a gratitude journal is the first step to that. Simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy--all the other principles that can transform my life will not blossom and flourish without gratitude.

Why? Because I simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in my life. And I have set in motion an ancient spiritual law; the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given to you. I yearn to weave this principle into the fabric of my daily life.

So are you interested in starting a gratitude journal? Select the prettiest, most inviting blank book you can find for your gratitude journal. Make a pleasant outing for its selection. Note the fabric or design of the cover. The look and feel of the paper. Do you prefer ruled pages or blank? Perhaps you can find a book with a ribbon clasp. I found a dainty little blue paisley book that I have deemed my Gratitude Journal. It may sound silly to go through a ritual of finding "the book", but I believe that it is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored.

As the months pass and you fill your journal with blessings, an inner shift in your reality will occur. Soon you will be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. As you focus on the abundance rather than on the lack in your life, you will be designing a wonderful new blueprint for the future. This sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work, transforming your dreams into reality.

A French proverb reminds me that "Gratitude is the heart's memory." Begin this day to explore and integrate this beautiful, life-affirming principle into your life, and the miracle you have been seeking will unfold to your wonder and amazement. How awesome is that, right?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carter's Mountain Family Outing

I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it was to spend the afternoon with my husband and beautiful baby girl surrounded by the earth's beauty! Fall is my favorite season and I very much enjoy driving through the mountains on a fall day to see all of the gorgeous colors. Usually we take a mountain trip on a chilly day so this 80 degree weather was a pleasant surprise. We have never been to Carter's Mountain, but our good friends told us that it is a staple in their fall festivities so we took their advice. Boy are we glad we did! What a blessing it was!! It was so warm and sunny, the people were so friendly and it was definitely a place to bring the kiddos no matter what mood they are in. Julia had a blast, but Tom came in at a close second to who had the best time. Julia ate her first apple...a fresh fuji apple hand picked by daddy. She is not want to let it go, but eventually she dropped it and had to say "farewell."

After walking up the mountain and picking our own apples, we settled down around a box apple doughnuts (a Carter's Mountain specialty) and a new delicacy in the Burns' apple cider slushie! It was amazing. Julia was very impatient about getting her "sips." The Carter's Mountain experience will leave lasting memories for us and we look forward to returning during peach season as well. I think we have found a new family tradition that beats the pumpkin patch out of the water.

This was the best anniversary yet. What a joy it was to spend time with my husband and baby girl to celebrate the 3 years that God has given us as a family. What a blessing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In honor of our three year anniversary tomorrow, I wanted to share about what I have been studying recently. I feel that there is ALWAYS room for growth in all areas of life, particularly my marriage and my relationship with others.

I read an article today written by Dr. John Yzaguirre, a specialist in marital enrichment. Dr. Yzaguirre, a licensed psychologist, and his wife are the directors of the California Pro-Social Institute in Irvine, California. I gleaned so much from this article. So many beautifully points that when intertwined can form a beautiful union of marriage that is full of grace, peace, and filled with humility.

"Listen. No advice, no conversion, no change, no great response. Just listen with love. No agenda. Answer with the way they want to be loved."

"Be the first to love. When we practice initiative, we are free."

"Anything I don't share, gets lost. Love becomes real when we share who we are and what we have."

"First say it with your life. Then say it with your lips."

"Marriage is a vocation to build unity with others. It gives light, life, joy and peace."

•Live in the present. Worry prevents loving. Worry is self absorption."

"Wisdom reminds me what matters. Is this worth losing unity? Renew decision to love. Fruits of a decision to love are tolerance, flexibility, patience. Wisdom puts things in perspective. People first; tasks second."

"Possible results include sharing will become more common; true emotional support for one another; collective spirituality that brings folks together; balanced life style; flexible life style; encouragement for personal development and community involvement; people can be united without losing their personality."

Monday, October 19, 2009

True Forgiveness

Tom and I are involved in a Bible Study called "The Love Dare" which is based upon the movie Fireproof. I know that the movie was a tad cheesy at points, but the overall message and the pertinent themes really can add value to a marriage. This past week we studied the principles of true forgiveness. I love the way that the study captures me and allows me to see my life and our marriage in the light of humility. I see this as a huge gift.

So what does it mean to truly forgive someone? Forgiveness begins when you choose to treat another person the same way you want God to treat you (emphasis on the CHOOSING). Its when you extend the same undeserved mercy God extended to you through the sacrifice of His Son. Forgiveness happens when you let God be the Judge of another and release all your anger and vengeance over to Him. It means that you set the offender free from the debt they owe you and let them out of the prison of anger you have kept in your heart.

I can tell you that I struggle with this concept. It is MUCH easier said than done. I know it is not my place to judge others yet I feel I OUGHT to because they "hurt" me. Crazy, huh? Tom and I have discussed this a great deal in the past week and we have come to conclusion that for us...having bitterness and being unwilling to forgive another will ultimately affect our relationship with each other even if the relationships are not parallel. The study focuses on the marriage, yet we are learning so many other valuable lessons that can permeate to other relationships in our lives as well. So I have set out to forgive everyone who has ever hurt me and to allow God's mercy to fill the corner of my soul where I allowed bitterness to dwell.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
-Ephesians 4:32

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Am, tomorrow, and the day after that.

Today I woke with the lyrics of one of my favorite songs drifting through my mind. While I have heard this song probably one- hundred times, today it was different. I truly felt what the song is about. I have always yearned to feel the enveloping love of Christ resonate through my soul, yet I am guarded. But I feel peace. Today I feel comfort. Today I feel a love in my soul that I know no earthly being could put there. Thank you Lord for teaching me daily what it is to know your peace and your presence in my life.

Who am I? Written and performed by Casting Crowns

Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.

Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again.
Who am I?
That the voice that calmed the sea,
Would call out through the rain,
And calm the storm in me.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living With Gratitude

Daily, I feel provoked to take a few steps forward in hopes that tomorrow's yesterday will be better than today's. I yearn for change, yet I want everything else to change around me. I want people to change. I want situations to change. I find myself not wanting to change, but expecting changed circumstances. It just goes to show what an innate self-centered nature lies deep within us whether we are conscious of it or not. Everything we see, hear, smell, touch and taste relates to our past experiences and nothing else. Our thoughts are solely based upon what has been. I find myself wondering how I can change that. I find myself in a rut sometimes and I feel as though I am unable to break that cycle, whatever it may be.

For example, I went to the doctor today and I found myself in an incredibly bad mood because I hate the waiting room. To me, there is nothing more painful than sitting in a room with physically sick people and breathing their sickness deep into my lungs while listening to their loud conversations. I looked for the chair furthest away and tried to find an appealing magazine. Much to my dismay, I soon found myself seated by a family who was speaking so loudly that I am sure their conversation could be heard from outside. A man took over my arm rest and preceded to spread his knees widely and took up most of the leg room in front of my chair forcing me to lean to the right and across my legs! I began begging the Lord to make them call my name quickly (or theirs would have been fine too). The family was talking about rather inappropriate things that I certainly didn't want to hear about, but I was forced to listen to and put up with their antics.

So in this situation, I had a bad heart attitude even before entering the waiting room. In fact, I woke up irritated at the fact that I had to go to the doctor's office. I am beginning to believe more and more that our thoughts can influence not only how we react to situations around us, but I think our thoughts influence the situation itself.

I read a research study recently that hypothesized that our thoughts create physical, measurable energy that we emit to the world around us. Negative thoughts emit negative energy and positive thoughts emit positive energy to the world around us. Without getting too deep into it... it is based upon the basic principles of physics,
some of the most powerful laws in the universe including, "What goes up must come down." In accordance, "What you give you will receive." I am not talking about what you DO to someone or how you TREAT someone. I am talking about the energy that you emit, something no one ever sees, but they can certainly feel it. I believe that energy shapes your surroundings in a positive or negative way. This measurable energy runs like a golden thread through the lives of all humanity. All that anyone has ever accomplished or attained has been done in full accordance with this most powerful law.

After studying this research I believe that our thoughts today will transform into tomorrow's experiences. Instead of focusing my thoughts on what I don't have and how the people around me "let me down", I will choose to focus on what I want in a positive manner. It all begins with gratitude. I can be grateful for things that haven't even happened yet! I can choose to be grateful for tomorrow's blessings even though they are just around the bend. Transforming my thoughts to positive resolution will not only affect me, but also the physical space in which a live. Without exception, every human being has the ability to transform any weakness or suffering into strength, power, perfect peace, health, and abundance. How awesome is that!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Christ-centered Marriage

I have been contemplating a great deal lately how the institution of marriage is supposed to ideally function and how that relates to my faith. Tom and I are making a consicous effort to allow Christ to resonate in our relationship, not only in the things we do and say, but in our thoughts and feelings as well. Here are a few principles that I have learned along the way.

The Jesus Secret
Tom and I will be celebrating our 3 year anniversary next week. Looking back through our years together, I can honestly say that I have never been more satisfied in my marriage as I am today. Marital bliss is not the same thing as lustful passion, although passion is a necessity for marriage. A Christ-centered marriage is far more rewarding than youthful puppy-love and romance. I've been falling in love with the same person every day – over and over… for over a decade... and still, God renews us each day and it never gets old. I am married to my best friend. We finish each others sentences. Even though our attention gets swallowed up by mundane daily tasks a lot of times, there is a wonderful blessing to having complete trust and faith in God's ability to keep us together through the trails of life. There's no magic pill that guarantees you will stay together and have a wonderful union... it all boils down to sacrifice, service, loyalty, thoughtfulness, and Jesus (heavy on the Jesus part).

Reflecting the Lord
I thought I would share a private moment with my husband from our day today:

I had a meltdown today. I was finishing up the laundry and I noticed that a red sweater had bled all over the other clothes in the washer, leaving beautiful shades of pink all over our clothes. As I discovered this.Julia was pulling a whole roll of toilet paper off of the roll in the bathroom, and Griffin decided he wanted to use the facilities in the house. The phone was ringing and I was late for an appointment. Whew, I was an emotional puddle.

Tom gently laid his hand on my shoulder and simply said, "Are you okay honey?"

I sat there and he quietly waited while I regained some composure. I thought of how selfless, wonderful, and hard-working my husband is. He is a good Christian man. He loves his family and works hard to support us. I hate getting depressed and crying because in a way, I feel that it is disrespectful to him, and causes him to needlessly worry. “Yes,” I said through tears. “I’ll be OK,” I told him, “I just needed to get this out of my system. "

I love it that he doesn't try to fix me when I cry. Sometimes the biggest thing you can do for God is just listen to someone and let them unload a heavy burden. What a gift that our Father has given us free access to His throne day and night if only we would call on Him by Name and make our requests known. I love it that Tom is an instrument that God has chosen to use to show me how much HE loves me. That's what being a Christian husband or wife is all about - being the hands, feet, and heart of God.... and raising up Godly offspring to honor Him.

Recharging Your Love Battery
I have a feeling this day would have gone much better had I started out with an open Bible and some heavy prayer.
I am not such a loving person when I'm running on empty. Without the Lord, I can do nothing... including having the grace to not get upset by the divorced socks that have no mate when they come out of the dryer or the spilled apple juice on your dining room carpet. Just like eating, we need the Word to replenish our "fruits of the spirit": love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

John 15:5 - "I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

The day seems to disintegrate if I can find no time for the Lord. Today was one of those days. We hardly got anything done. I felt like I was spinning tires all day long and yet making no ground. I was feeling very frazzled by the day's end - and like I had accomplished nothing. Go figure!

Thank The Lord For Eachother
As I look back on our decade together and our 3 years of marriage I see a great deal of imperfection, ordinarily I would focus on that, but God has given me new vision to see the good, the beautiful, and the honorable elements of our marriage. Don't get me wrong, we fight, more than I would like to fess up to actually. However,at the end of the day I know that God has chosen Tom for me and me for him. Tom is has the unique ability to show God's love to me in ways that no one else can, and I the same for him. How awesome is that! I believe that Tom is my partner in traveling along life's road with all of the pot holes, broken guard rails and slippery curves. No matter was trials come our way I know that we are grounded in seeking God's will for our lives together and we strive daily to honor Him in our attitudes and actions. I pray that God will continue to bless our marriage in the years to come as we earnestly seek His face daily.

Thank you Lord For Tom. He is the greatest gift that you have given me. I thank you for his kindness, affection, and comfort. You have created an amazing man and I am grateful that you have given me the opportunity shared him with you.

Healthy Living...

So today a friend gave me a list entitled "Factors for Wellness and Healthy Living." She further explained that the list was compiled by a research psychologist working in a village of a third world African tribe. The psychologist worked closely with an indigent people group whose greatest challenge was survival. The list was compiled from the elements of the greatest importance to the least of importance from their perspective. I have realized more than ever that humanity remains to be a mere humble existence in comparison to the vast galaxies that God has created...and yet He chose us. I am so encouraged that God yearns to see us thrive and grow: emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. This list is posted on my bathroom mirror so that I can start each day grounded seeking health and wellness in all areas of my life.

Factors for Wellness and Healthy Living
  • Love and Be Loved. One cannot exist without the other. Engage in fulfilling relationships with others.
  • Maintain physical wellness. Engage in regular exercise to ensure the energy and vitality to accomplish what you want to do.
  • Enhance your own self-esteem. Talk well of yourself every day. Catch yourself and others doing something right each day.
  • Establish reasonable goals for yourself. Set goals you want to achieve in all spheres of your life. Celebrate when they are achieved.
  • Find satisfaction and meaning in your work. "Work is love made manifest."
  • Eat healthy. Make healthy choices in your diet. Drink plenty of water.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Keep an optimistic point of view. See hope and challenge in your future. Envision a positive outcome of your current actions.
  • Express your creativity. Explore your imagination. Create something new and different...daily.
  • Enjoy nature. Honor the earth. Spend time with the environment. Allow it to soothe and stimulate you.
  • Spend time with yourself. Plan for time to reflect, relax and interpret the nuances of your life and experiences. Pursue your thought and dreams.
  • Explore your spirituality. Recognize the influences of God on your life experience. Embrace the joy and wonderment of life.
  • Balance activity and rest. Get enough sleep and rest, as well as, activity.
  • Cope effectively with stress. Learn and utilize a variety of mechanisms to reduce and manage stress and anxiety.
  • Open yourself to learning. Develop a passion for learning. Engage in hobbies. Ponder new ways to doing or viewing things. Think outside the box.
  • Secure economic essentials. Secure enough income to provide the essentials of living, not the acquisition of wealth or material possessions.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just One Year Ago...

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.
-2 Corinthians 9:15

Tomorrow is Julia's first birthday. My heart is overflowing with so much joy and yet there is a lingering feeling of sadness that resonates as well. We were advised when our baby girl was born to "hold on because it will fly by." This year has flown by in so many ways yet it feels like yesterday that she came into this world. I find myself yearning to hold that little 4 lb 15 oz baby that greeted us exactly 365 days ago. She had the bluest eyes and the darkest hair. Tom and I gazed at her in wonderment at the incredible nature of God's creation. How could hands be formed so small and delicate. October 14, 2008 at 11:21am was the most precious moment of our lives. I now realize that I did not experience God's greatest blessings until He allowed me to care for this precious life. What an honor it is to greet her every morning and see her precious smiling face peering over her crib. I am so thankful that He has chosen Tom and I to guide and teach her in the ways of the teach her of His love and the freedom that comes from a true undying love for Him. I am reminded daily that Tom and I are servants of Him. We humbly ask for His guidance daily as we guide our daughter to live a life that shows the joy of the Lord.