Confessions: Not Until I Read My Bible

I have a confession to make. I am NOT a religious Christian. I hear some people saying, “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.” I feel ya on that, but it’s becoming evident to me that God commands up to pray without stopping and to write His words on our hearts for a reason. We need to keep coming back to Him, being reminded who He is and who we are to Him.

I do not believe that we should read our Bibles like a daily chore, but I do believe we need to be in the Word daily. That seems contradictory, but our faith will starve if we don’t feed it.

This conviction is fresh and far more apparent to me than it has been in the 17+ years of following Christ. I have always been a person has to understand why something works before I’m willing to accept it. God is patient with this stubborn child. He’s showing me the why…

We have moved into a new neighborhood, and the drive to reach out to the families around us is strong. However…I feel myself pulling back. Why don’t I tell people that they are sinners in need of a Savior? I really started pondering that question, and I had a real come-to-Jesus-meeting with, well, Jesus. I asked myself and sought God in prayer…”Do I not believe they are going to go to Hell if they don’t come to Christ? Because if I really believed that, wouldn’t I be more compelled to tell them about Christ and beg them to come to Jesus? If I do believe, do I not love them enough to share Christ? Do I not care if they go to hell?” Wowza. Talk about a conversation to knot your stomach.

Fast forward to today when I was having a discussion with a friend about a doctrine we disagree on, and I couldn’t refute what she was saying. I know what I’ve believed most of my life. I even know there are scriptures to support it. But I wasn’t ready. Again with the knotted stomach.

Friends, I have been a Christian for almost two decades. I have read through the Bible, front to back. And yet, the Bible isn’t fresh in my mind, because I don’t study it regularly. I believe in God, and I have been faithful to Him in many ways, but I’m a Christian slacker. Without those constant reminders of Truth, my convictions about what I believe and about sharing that message with others has seriously waned.

I have reasons to believe that we meet God in all sorts of ways, and being in nature is one of my favorites. However, Deuteronomy 11:18 says, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead” (NASB). That is not an image of a person who reads the scriptures once and then goes about his life, only communing with God in the ways he enjoys. The Bible was given to us as a gift and a command, and it should be a constant in our lives.

You want to know what is constant in my life? Eating. Sleeping. Showering. Working. Mothering. Wifing (Is that a word? I just made it a word). Facebook and Instagram (I loathe myself). Housework. Schoolwork. Reading other books.

How many life lessons is God going to have to teach me before I make [TIME WITH JESUS] a constant? So here’s a challenge for me and for anyone else out there who is a terrible Christian (Ha!)…Choose one thing that you do daily to which you can say, “Not until I read my Bible.” You know you want to do that thing that you do everyday. Use that as a catalyst for making your communion with God a habit. If you have trouble concentrating, putting the Scriptures in context, or understanding what you’re reading, grab a Bible study guide and allow it to guide you. Chances are, once you are deep into a study, your learning and growth in Christ will far surpass what the author even considered when he or she set out to write it. Just pick a starting point and go from there.

For now, I’m off to bed…but not until I read my Bible. Let’s do this thing.

Advertisements

So, I’m Writing A Book…

I’ve spoken about conquering fear on this page before, and I have to admit that it still has a presence in my life at times. I think most people would be lying if they said they were fearless.

Fear stands in the way of the life we want to be living. We fear failure, but I truly believe we also fear success.

I’ve wanted to write a book for years, but I was too afraid.

This is the year of doing the important-to-me things. So, I’m writing a book. I have a title, an outline, and a idea in my heart. I even have the first 1500 words. I know it isn’t much, but I took the first step.

Sharing is scary, because now I won’t be the only one who knows if I chicken out! But I’m praying this work is in God’s will. If it is, I know that He will bless it.

The first thing that writing is teaching me is how much you have to give of yourself to your work. I’ve already cried writing the first few pages, and I’m offering more of me than I expected I would. If you want to write something worth reading, you have to starting writing and keep coming back, even when it’s not the smooth ride you hoped it would be.

As I’ve said before, if you want to live the dream, you have to work hard, and then work harder.

The Quiet Before the Whirlwind

I’m sitting in my favorite chair while Josiah snoozes and the fan runs. It’s so peaceful in this tiny apartment. I should have packed more or gotten to bed earlier, but I’m being like a preschooler and resisting sleep. This week should hold a lot of wonderful things, but I know it’s going to be a whirlwind.

Dustin and I are holding onto our motto: Wait upon the LORD. Apparently, the LORD did not see fit for us to wait long for a new place to live. We are both stunned and overjoyed and thankful.

I thought that saying goodbye to our little apartment on Main St. would be hard, and I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic as we leave, but God’s timing is always perfect, and we know that we have outgrown this place.

As many people in the Bible set up altars to remember God’s faithfulness, I will call this apartment A Place of Refuge. We weathered our greatest life storm to date here, and we will never forget the LORD redeeming us from our brokenness.

Change is challenging in various ways, but we will move forward and continue to grow. I’m thankful for the people and places God gives us to love us, to teach us, and to remind us of who we are in Him.

Father, we praise You, and we thank You. To You be the glory. Amen!

Things 2014 Taught Me

2014 was a year of learning. The best ones always are. Some of the lessons were new, and some were strong reminders. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are the things 2014 taught me…

  • I can survive winter without being completely bummed the whole time. Get out of the house and keep moving, even if it means wearing extra layers and braving time among sick people…it’s worth the risk.

  • Stress over illness can be more harmful than illness itself.

  • Communication is critically important in relationships, and that is not as simple as it sounds. Keep talking to each other, even when it hurts.

  • We can survive far more than we can imagine, but only when we rely on more than ourselves. My own strength, Dustin’s and my strength together, your strength, isn’t enough to brave the trials of this life. And that’s okay.

  • Humility goes a LONG way. It is one of the most important elements in a healthy relationship.

  • Marriage can survive a separation.

  • Not everyone is going to be happy when you succeed. Sometimes your success will hurt another person, because they don’t understand how you have what they don’t. Because of that, you might feel guilty about the happiness in your life.

  • You shouldn’t be ashamed at how far you’ve come or how much the LORD has given you. Walk in humility and gratitude, and recognize that not everyone is where you are in their journey.

  • You should give more grace than you think people deserve. That’s one way to be like Jesus.

  • Not everyone is in the same place in their spiritual walk, but that doesn’t mean they love Jesus any more or less. Everyone is learning.

  • Good girlfriends are precious gems.

  • Life is best lived when you choose to be grateful for the unexpected. And there will always be unexpected things. Don’t hold too tightly to your own plans, because God’s plans are always better.

  • You cannot just show up and expect everything to fall into place. You have to work hard and then work harder. Life will not hand you success.

  • Two tall adults and one little boy can live a very joyful life in a 500-600 square foot second floor apartment…even if those two adults hit their heads on the surprisingly low ceilings and door frames.

  • You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.

  • Going to school gets harder with age and more responsibility, but you appreciate it more.

  • There is a much greater sense of accomplishment when you pay for things with cash, especially if that means waiting a long time to get them.

  • Sometimes dreams coming true looks a lot more like hard work, sweat, and tears. Also, you rarely feel the way you expect to when things happen, for the good or the bad, but it’s so much better to take chances than to sit back and always wonder what could have been.

  • You don’t have to be a slave to debt. Whether you are just starting out or starting over, you can have freedom. Again, that means working hard and sacrificing.

  • Judging between right and wrong is far different from being judgmental. The first seeks to be right in the eyes of a Holy God. The latter places oneself in the throne of God, and pride certainly leads to a fall. And oh, how far I’ve fallen.

  • Potty-training is rough.

  • Your children will become just like you. Be someone you’d want them to become.

  • If you have a will as strong as an ox, you’d better gear up to raise a strong-willed child. No joke.

  • I married an incredibly patient and loving man.

  • Time alone is good for personal reflection and growth, but should not be a constant in your life.

  • If you seek opportunities, you will find them, especially opportunities to serve others. There is need all around you.

  • Cliches exist for a reason. It really is more blessed to give than to receive.

  • You can allow people to make you feel bad for just about anything, but don’t. Once upon a time, I let someone make me feel like less of a mother because I only have one child instead of many. How silly.

  • You can be miserable doing something you love, and you can be happy doing something you don’t. A lot depends on your attitude and the people around you.

  • Painting murals makes me very happy.

  • You cannot do everything, so ask the LORD to guide you in how you spend your time. And on that note, you can’t go wrong spending time with Him.

  • Prayer is the most powerful tool a person can use. Miracles happen when you hand control over to the LORD. He can heal hearts and repair relationships. He can and will do far more than you could ever ask or imagine.

  • I firmly believe the entire Bible, but sometimes God uses life to highlight verses in our hearts. If I could use a verse to describe this year, I think Ephesians 3:14-21 would be fitting…

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Un Frozen

I’ve been spending a lot of time “crock-potting” these days. I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law, Leah, coined that phrase. It essentially means that I process things over an extended period of time. The slow-cooking version of the mind and heart. Some people like to hash things out right away, but it takes me time…

I have spent a lot of my life thinking, dreaming, and reading, but rarely to never doing. I’ve always wanted to be someone who helps other people. I even got a degree in a “helping profession”, but as I reflect on my twenties, I am ashamed at how little helping I actually did.

A few months ago I started praying about this. Prayer is a dangerous thing, you know. Prayers get answered, and out of your comfort zone you go. I prayed that God would give me opportunities to serve Him by serving others. I know there are needs all around, but in the busyness of life, I often feel like I don’t get the chance to make a difference.

As I said, prayers get answered. I was given quite a few opportunities to minister to others this fall, and I feel like the tiny bit of change I’m making in the world is making a major change in me.

I’m not going to claim to be a completely selfless person, but I will say that the reason I haven’t been helping people over the last decade isn’t about selfishness. It’s about fear. I have had gobs of dreams and ideas about how I would offer my living sacrifice to God, but I ultimately always turn away in fear.

What if what I do doesn’t make a difference? What if I get sick? What if I don’t have time for my family or the activities that I enjoy? What if I don’t have the resources? What if I fail?

Fear is not of God. Fear focuses on self and self’s limitations.

I spent many years frozen in fear, but as I answer “yes” to the small opportunities I’m given, God is showing me that He can make something out of my nothing. I need only show up. If I keep my eyes on Jesus, and not on myself in all my shortcomings, He will make the difference. And I’m the one who receives the blessing. This “crock-potting” heart is slowly, but surely, warming up to His kingdom work.

I Gave Up “Thankful Statuses”

It’s November, and unlike the last several years, I am not posting daily Facebook statuses about things for which I’m grateful. It was a little sad when I decided I was going to make that change, as I found it a joyous and fun tradition. I have only seen one person posting those statuses this year, so obviously, I’m not alone. Maybe it was a passing fancy. Maybe people are less thankful (I doubt that). Or maybe they were just bored. For me, it’s deeper than all of that.

There is a lot of negativity that swarms the internet. I believe it’s because a lot of people are ungrateful and mean (#sorrynotsorry). People who are miserable like to bring other people down, and since the internet is apparently a place where people are unafraid to show their real selves, that negative demeanor is more readily available than it would be in person. No need to play nice when you’re not sitting in front of a living, breathing, FEELING person.

This phenomenon of virtual boldness (not unlike inebriation, if you ask me) is a false confidence that I could do without. It’s not going anywhere, though, as we can all tell. That’s one of the reasons individuals like me like to put forth positive vibes on the web. Enter “Thankful Statuses”…it was a few years ago that I saw the challenge to post something you were thankful for everyday in November. “That’s fun!” I thought. I jumped in with both feet, easily posting multiple gifts per day. My family and friends quickly joined in, too. It was really great. Seeing positivity every time I logged onto to Facebook was uplifting, and again, fun.

However after the first year, I started seeing posts mocking that trend. I am corny, geeky, nerdy as they come, so I didn’t care if people thought I was cheesy. I kept posting. But then those statuses and “e-cards” became more frequent. People were literally making fun of other Facebookers for being too upbeat. It was 1993, and I was in elementary school again. What was once a happy thing, became fuel for bullies. My sparkly K-Mart sweatshirt was inferior to the rich kids’ name brand clothes. Now, I know I’m a sensitive person, but I really believe the reason kids are bullies these days is because their parents aren’t teaching them how to have compassion and respect for others. This attitude of superiority on Facebook is really just a microcosm of a bigger problem. Just because you take a more stoic/negative/cynical/quiet/sarcastic/[insert Facebook style here] position doesn’t mean another person’s posts are inferior to yours.

We all have our opinions, but as my generation was taught [or so I thought], if you don’t have anything nice to say, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all. Putting down another person via sarcasm on social media is no different than putting them down in person. I realize that people feel the need to put down others’ happiness because they feel inferior when their lives don’t feel so cheery. But as I said before, that’s what bullies do. My mom always told me that people will bring you down because they don’t feel good about themselves. If that is what we’re doing, we need to re-evaulate. Come on adults, why not be a better example?

There were people who thought I was putting up a front on Facebook pre-marital separation, because my posts were positive, and I constantly updated the interwebs on my love of being a momma. I guess they weren’t entirely wrong. Maybe I was putting up a front, but it wasn’t for them. I was trying with all my might to focus on the many blessings in my life, despite the pain I felt in my marriage. I wasn’t being fake or trying to make anyone envy me. I was simply not “airing my dirty laundry” (Lord knows, people would have judged me for that, too! You cannot win. When it comes to the internet, you will be judged, no matter what – people are mean!). I didn’t want to put my husband down. I didn’t want to announce to the world that we were struggling. I don’t consider Facebook a safe place to reach out and ask for help when you are feeling vulnerable (Duh!). BUT I did want to shout from the mountains that I LOVE BEING A MOMMA!

Some of us can be deliriously happy in spite of the trials we face. Being a mom saved me from leading a miserable, self-centered life. It’s the thing that makes me feel like I matter, and it’s the first thing that I have ever felt 100% secure in doing. It is literally my dream job. So, sure, I focused on that and shared that in spite of the pain I was feeling. This life isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. It’s okay to be happy and thankful. And just because you are, doesn’t mean you don’t face enormous trials. And just because all you share on social media are the good things you’re feeling, doesn’t mean you’re a big phony.

I know this isn’t a world changing post and that people will continue in their superior attitudes, but I hope it makes someone think before making a judgment about another person simply for what they choose to post on the internet. Remember, not everyone is like you, so the conclusions you may draw about them are not always right or fair. If a couple wants to have a joint Facebook account, it doesn’t mean their relationship is in trouble (maybe the guy doesn’t get on Facebook enough to warrant a second account). If a person posts pictures of their kids all smiley and happy doesn’t mean they think they are better than you (maybe those are their favorite pictures, the ones that make them feel happy). If a person posts statuses about their failing relationships all day long, that doesn’t make their struggles or their desire for companionship any less important than yours. If someone posts about politics and it gets on your nerves, it doesn’t make their opinion any less relevant. Hey, if no one was passionate about anything, nothing would get done! I’m not saying that I don’t ever feel negative thoughts about other people on Facebook, but I really do try not to be judgmental, and when those “judgy” feelings creep up, I try to keep them to myself.

Although I don’t live my life to please other people, I also don’t care to throw my pearls to pigs, so to speak. So I’m not posting my thankful statuses this year. All that negativity has left me with that “Meh!” feeling. If all those negative Neds and Nellys are going to be sarcastic and jaded, I don’t want to bother them with my happiness and good-cheer. Ha! Truly though, I don’t have to prove my thankfulness to anyone, and neither do you. So whether you choose to post “Thankful Statuses” or not, remember that we all do have so many blessings in our lives. Reflect on them and choose to bless others rather than bring them down.

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me

I’ve had a lot of time to think since I last posted. One of the things that has come to mind time and again is how some of us are inclined to throw ourselves pity parties. I hate to admit it, but this is sort of a special talent of mine. If throwing personal pity parties were a spiritual gift, I’d be a Super Christian. Now, before you start thinking I’m totally pathetic, I have to say that I also have enough self-awareness to snap myself out of it.

The last few months, I may have thrown a few pity parties. Yeah, I definitely did. Some of the things were silly. Some were deeper rooted and still difficult for me to handle, but what God has been showing me is this…

You are your own worst enemy when you start feeling sorry for yourself.

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you start to think like you’ve been granted the short end of the stick in life, things do seemingly get worse and worse. Have you ever said, “When it rains, it pours”? Me too. But recently, I’ve really tried to stop voicing negativity about my life. Here’s why…

When you throw a pity party…

1. You forget to be thankful for the abundance of blessings poured out on you daily.

Sometimes life is really hard, but if you are reading this, I’m guessing you’ve lived a pretty charmed life. Hear me out…do you have a roof over your head? Do you have people to love, clothes to wear, food to eat, clean water to drink, and opportunities to better yourself? Air in your lungs? The beauty of creation outside your door? There are so many things for which to be thankful. If you’re focusing on the negatives in life, you are more than likely missing out on the joy all around you.

2012-09-21 21.59.10-1

2. You miss opportunities to help other people.

“Poor me. My life is so hard. I just want this. I just wish that. I…I…I” Want to be self-centered? Buy some decorations and throw yourself a pity party! When I was a young girl and I’d come home from school all mopey, Mom would ask, “What is one nice thing you did for someone else today?” That was an amazing way to get my attention and remind me that it’s not all about me. Not only that, but one of the best pick-me-ups is lending a hand to someone who needs it. There’s a world of need right outside your door. Feeling sorry for yourself? Look around and realize that there is always someone else with bigger fish to fry.

2012-09-21 21.59.11

3. You become prideful.

“I’m the only one who’s ever felt this way.” Have you said that before? Have you felt it? I can always tell someone is drowning in a pool of self-importance when she starts making claims that she’s the “only one” and that “no one understands”. What makes you think that your problems are so unique? Does it feel good to be the martyr who suffers in your own special way? I don’t mean to be harsh, but this attitude is truly a form of pride, and not the good kind. Everyone suffers in one way or another on this planet, but we are all in this together. No one is more important than another.

2012-09-21 21.59.13

4. You push people away.

When you take on the attitude that no one understands you and that you are all alone in your pitiful existence, you either keep people at arm’s length, or you push them away completely. Sure, you may feel like people don’t get exactly what you are going through, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Maybe they don’t know you’re suffering. Have you told anyone? Maybe they don’t know exactly how to help you, because they’re human, too. Have you asked for help? You may blame others for not being there for you, when in reality, you are the one who has robbed them of the opportunity.

2012-09-21 21.59.12-1

5. You excuse yourself from responsibility for your life (If you ask me, this might be the most destructive one…)

“My life is so hard. Look at all the things I’ve suffered. Poor me. No one cares. Nothing ever goes my way.” The truth is, sometimes life is the worst. We live in a broken world full of sinners. We aren’t always loved the way God intended, natural disasters happen, financial hardships come, we get sick, and sometimes we lose people we love. It is tough to say the least. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but the truth is, I still had choices to make. I’m thankful that I had a support system (my God, my parents, my church family, countless teachers and mentors) who steered me in the right direction. For the most part I’ve made positive decisions in spite of the hardships, but there were times I missed out because I was feeling sorry for myself. There are ALWAYS opportunities to better yourself. You can’t control what other people do, or how the weather changes, or what life throws at you, but you can decide to get up every day, thank God for your blessings, love the people around you, and make choices that will help you grow. You are responsible for who you become. Choose to be strong and courageous, no matter what life throws your way. Keep your chin up.

2012-09-21 22.03.20

(Thank you, one year old Josiah for being my cry-baby model…You’re beautiful even when you ugly cry! Thank you, Amber Chapman, for capturing pictures of my sweet boy!)