Friday, February 27, 2009

Meet My Friend Vic

Vic and I became good friends last night. You see, all day yesterday I had a constant dry cough. Nothing would give me relief. The only positive I could find is that my abs were getting a great work-out! So I was worried at bedtime cause I needed to sleep. Suddenly I remembered one of those "forward" emails I had read a while back. The email said to rub this stuff on the soles of your feet, covering them with socks, and that it would help. I was pretty skeptical but gave it a try out of my desperation. I rubbed some on the bottom of my feet and then wiped what was left on my fingers on my chest. And ya know what...I coughed maybe 3 times the rest of the night. Now, I realize there are a lot of factors that could have contributed to my cough suppression, so this still needs further experimentation. What I do know is that my cough stopped and that was all that mattered! The other thing I didn't realize was that Vicks can be used to put on sore muscles. So what it does on the bottom of your feet is create a warm feeling that lasts for you just got an awesome foot massage. And when your feet relax, so does the rest of your body. It was wonderful. Infomercial over. No, I do not own stock in this product :) If anyone else has tried this, let me know how it's worked for you!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fixing My Thoughts

"Finally, [sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" - Phillipians 4:8

This is one of my life verses. I believe that our thought life is so important because our thoughts influence the way we feel, which influences the way we act. Sometimes I notice myself falling into bad patterns of thinking. I might start to worry, become fearful, discontent, negative, you get the idea. When this happens, I've found that it helps to examine what I'm allowing to fill my mind.

Do these words describe the TV shows and movies that you watch? Pure. Lovely. Admirable. Praiseworthy. (If they do, I would like to know what you're watching!) Do these words describe the books or magazines that you read? How about the lyrics to the songs you listen to? All these things influence us whether we realize it or not. While I have become more selective in what I allow in, there is no escaping the messages the world throws at us. So in addition to minimizing the "bad stuff" we must also be filling our minds with the truth.

I try to fill myself with little bits of truth and fix my thoughts on God throughout the day. In the morning I try to get up before my boys so I can read a little Scripture and be still to listen and pray (which is the only quiet time in my house!) Sometimes when a verse jumps out at me I will write it down and place in somewhere in the house where I see it often. When I'm cooking a meal or cleaning I turn on Christian music, or at least music that has a positive message. And in those fortunate moments of time when the boys are napping or playing well together, I get to escape to read a book...focusing on topics that will benefit my life. The more I fix my thoughts on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy...the more I find myself content and open to God's leading in my life.

"Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." - Romans 12:2 (msg)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Facing Your Giants

Ok. Time for another book review. I just got done reading Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado. The chapters are short, so I used it as a devotional (there are also study questions in the back). The book is cool because it chronicles the life of David and relates the lessons he learned to our lives and culture today. Max writes in a way that brings Scripture to life and makes it easier to understand.

Here are some thoughts from the last chapter...

How do you face the giants in your life? By facing God first.

Focus on giants, you stumble. Focus on God, your giants tumble.

5 Stones to Take Into Battle

1. Stone of the Past - Remember what God has already done for you. He is faithful.

2. Stone of Prayer - "[God] will keep in perfect peace all who trust in [Him], whose thoughts are fixed on [Him]" - Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

3. Stone of Priority - Your battle is God's opportunity to show His power.

4. Stone of Passion - David ran, not away from, but toward his giant. Take action.

5. Stone of Persistence - Never give up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Change of Plans

Everyone who knows me, knows I'm a planner. I'm organized, I think ahead, and I follow through. But sometimes a sudden change of plans can be very refreshing!

I heard about a women's retreat a few months ago that is being organized by some women I love and respect. I wanted to go, but I put it off as being impractical. My husband was going to be gone a lot on the weekends surrounding this retreat, and I needed to be home with the kids. Plus I'm always hesitant to dish out the cash. So I made plans for the Friday night of the weekend and put it out of my mind.

Well, yesterday my plans fell through. And to top it off, my need to get away became very evident. I checked my email and there was only one. A "Last Chance to Register"for the retreat. Coincidence? Maybe. But I took it as a sign from God. I mentioned it to my husband expecting him to tell me it was not a good time, but instead he quickly cancelled some of his plans and made arrangements for me to go! I've got a great guy, don't I? Now in a few short weeks I will find out why God wanted me there.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" - Proverbs 21:19

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Lesson in Humility

"Humility doesn't mean you think less of yourself, but that you think of yourself less."
- Max Lucado

I love this quote. I desire to be a much more humble person. Being a wife and a mother has made me more humble. It has forced me to think of the needs of my family and put those needs before my own. However, my self-centered nature is still very strong.

Max Lucado posed this question..."Do you still see people? Or do you see only their functions?" I've been guilty. How about you? I would like to say that I always see people, but too often I am only thinking about me and my agenda. I get frustrated easily when I'm running errands and someone slows me down...such as the grocery store cashier who can only seem to scan one item every 5 seconds, or the waitress who can never be found when you need her. While I'm usually still polite, my thoughts are not nearly as kind. If I met these people somewhere else, I would be more likely to get to know them. But when they are in a position to serve me, I am ashamed to say that I tend to care about the quality of their service more than about who they are.

This reminds me of a scene from a movie I watched recently, What Women Want. In the movie Mel Gibson gets electrocuted and as a result can hear women's thoughts. (I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want anyone being able to hear mine!) Anyway, there was a girl that worked in his office that often went unnoticed. She wouldn't have captured his attention at all if he hadn't heard her thoughts unveiling her low self-esteem. But because he realized who she was, he took the time to care and save her from committing suicide. He became more humble by hearing and acknowledging the feelings of others.

May we all learn to view others through God's eyes, thinking of them more and of ourselves less.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Somewhere In the Middle

Music is one of my passions. It has a way of reaching me deep inside my soul where words fall short. God has used certain songs in my life to convey truth, inspire me, encourage me, convict me, the list goes on and on... This morning I listened to the song Somewhere in the Middle by Casting Crowns. The lyrics seem to describe my life at the moment. I would post the audio on my blog if I knew how!

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
Fearless warriors in a picket fence
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences,
The God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Instructions Included

Almost every product we buy comes with instructions. Why? The creator of the product wants us to know how to put it together, how to use it, and how to take care of it. But do we always read these instructions? Not in my house. Either we're too busy, or we like the excitement and challenge of trying to figure it out on our own. But we've all run across things that are just too complex for our minds to figure out, or we want to save time and make sure we do it right the first time. We need guidance from someone with more knowledge. We need to consult the creator.

I believe that everything created has a purpose...including you and me. We were made for something. Wouldn't it be nice to be born with a set of instructions telling us exactly what that was and how we should go about it? God has given us the Bible to show us the way he works and give us guidance in how to live life to the fullest. Sometimes we're too busy to read it. Sometimes we try to figure things out on our own. But how much precious time and heartache would we save if we learned to do it right the first time? I am so thankful that I began seeking His wisdom at an early age, and I know I have a ton more to learn...both from His word and the experiences of others.

"Come, let's climb God's Mountain, go to the House of the God of Jacob. He'll show us the way he works, so we can live the way we're made" - Isaiah 2:3 (msg)

*An insightful book on this topic is The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jacob!

My little baby is now 6 years old! Everyone has told me how quickly the time goes by, and they are right! I can remember holding him in my arms, thinking how long it would be till he started school. Now he is in Kindergarten learning to read. Math is his favorite subject...just like his parents :) This picture of Jacob captures his personality well...full of joy and excitement (when he gets to do what he wants of

This year I decided to start a tradition of writing a letter to my children on their birthdays. Telling them what I enjoy about them at this age and any other words of wisdom I want to pass along. Then I'm going to put the letter in an envelope, seal it, and file it away. I'm not sure exactly when I might present this gift...I hope I am around to do it. But it puts me at peace knowing that if for some reason God does call me home unexpectedly, I will have left this gift for my children behind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Imperfect Parents

A young father followed the same routine every evening: He went into the kitchen, opened a cupboard, and took out a glass. He then walked over to a cupboard, pulled out a cookie jar, took out two or three cookies, and put them on a plate. Then he'd go over to the refrigerator, get some milk, and pour himself a tall glass. Following that, he'd walk into the living room and enjoy his milk and cookies while sitting in his favorite chair.

One evening as he was heading into the kitchen for his nightly ritual, the father noticed his three-year-old son heading into the kitchen ahead of him. The boy had a determined look on his face. Instead of announcing his presence, the father decided to stay unobserved so that he could watch what his son seemed so determined to do.

The boy pulled out several drawers, essentially making steps so he could climb onto the counter - something he was forbidden to do. Next he walked across the counter (another no-no) and opened an upper cupboard door. He reached in and pulled out a glass, knocking over several other glasses in the process. The young boy placed his glass down, hopped off the counter, then picked up his glass, and put it on the floor. He marched to the refrigerator and pulled out the milk, then poured it into the glass. The flowing milk proved too strong for his little hands, and it spilled over the top of the glass. The little boy wiped up the spilled milk with his shirt.

Then he left his milk, walked over to another cupboard, and pulled out the cookie jar. This was strictly forbidden; the father's son knew he wasn't supposed to get cookies without permission. But he reached in and while doing so pulled several other cookies out of the jar. The boy put them back and wiped up the crumbs with his now milk-soaked shirt. The father stepped out to intercept his son, only to be greeted by a huge smile. "Here are your cookies, Dad. I love you."

In this story, I want you to place yourself in the son's position, not the dad's. We're the little child, trying to serve our heavenly Father and yet making a lot of messes in the process. We can't reach the counter. We knock over a few glasses, and we spill the milk while we're trying to prepare a drink. Lacking all wisdom, we come up with the great idea of cleaning up the mess with our shirt instead of with a washcloth. But what dad wouldn't feel touched by such a display of service, however messy it might be?

We're not the best parents, not by far. We don't have all the wisdom we'd like. We don't understand how everything fits together. We make mistakes, we make messes, we can do everything wrong - but God looks at us with a Father's delighted eyes. Where we see weakness, God sees humility. Where we see messes, God sees intent. Where we see failings, God sees motives. And he smiles. He takes us into his arms. And he laughs a delighted Father's laugh.

*This post is an excerpt taken from (you guessed it...) Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Taken for Granted

I have been fighting off a virus for the past few days. I've got the symptoms of strep throat...but the nurse tells me it's not. While I would prefer this to the stomach flu, it is still much more difficult to care for my kids when all I want to do is rest. Whenever I get sick, the one positive thing it does is remind me how much I take good health for granted! Isn't that true of a lot of things in our lives? That we don't realize how blessed we are until something is taken away? My challenge to you, and myself, is to appreciate the things and people in our lives because there is no guarantee of what tomorrow may bring. Thankfully this minor discomfort in my life is only least it better be :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Comparison Syndrome

"We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original" - Gal 5:26 (msg)

I know this verse is true, yet I still catch myself doing it...comparing myself to others. I compare myself with other women. I compare my marriage with those around me (and those fictional "too-good-to-be-true" relationships I read about). I compare my parenting skills. And the list goes on and on. I find that the less I compare myself with others, the less ammunition Satan has to use against me, and the more content I am with my life.

In light of this struggle, I found this passage about parenting to be really encouraging. "You need to know that God has different expectations for different parents. Jesus makes it clear (in Luke 12:48) that, while all of us are guilty, God does consider our background when deciding the degree of guilt: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Thomas)

I grew up with loving parents, but they lived in different houses. The majority of the time it was just me and my dad. And while I went to church on Sundays, it was more something that we did rather than a living faith. So here I am trying to manage a family and provide spiritual training, when I've never had it modeled for me. Is it any wonder why I feel inadequate when I compare myself to people who come from a more stable background? I need to remember that God knows me inside and out. He knows where I've come from and where I'm going. I am not expected to be like anyone else...only to seek His wisdom and be obedient to what He tells me to do.

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that...Don't compare yourself with others." - Gal 6:4 (msg)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Gold Behind the Guilt

This post is for you parents out there drowning in guilt. I seriously need to read Chapter 3 in Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas every week. It is amazing. I am going to attempt to share with you some of the main points and insights in this chapter so hopefully you can be as encouraged as I am!

"It's not hard to make any parent feel guilty, because we know we can always do more than we do. We can spend more time with the kids, provide a better house or living environment, listen to them more, pray for them more, respond in a more patient manner. The list of things we could do better never ends. But we're fallible human beings. We get tired and grouchy. We don't always think before we act. We're far from perfect. And parenting puts the spotlight on our imperfections like nothing else."

"None of us can mess up so badly that our children somehow extend beyond the reach of God's mercy."

The Gold Behind the Guilt:

1. Guilt Can Point Us to God

"Weakness on our part can actually be a strength when we use it to transfer our kids' allegiance from us to God... I can't be God to my kids, but I can model my need for God."

"When guilt feelings keep us self-absorbed, destroy our motivation, and make us discouraged, guilt has become a parking lot - not a good thing. But when guilt reminds us that we are insufficient, and when this insufficiency points us to God - his forgiveness, his empowering Spirit, and his provision of grace - then guilt becomes a spiritual car wash. You don't camp out in a car wash; you just go there to get clean! You drive through the car wash and come out on the other end with an entirely new outlook."

2. Guilt Can Motivate Us to Do Better

"We can look forward with confidence, use our failings as teachable moments, and wake up with cleansed souls and fresh hearts, knowing we've learned some valuable lessons for the next day."

3. Guilt Can Remind Us of God's Providence

"It's no accident that we have the children we have; God made them and placed them in our care. When he did so, he knew our limitations, but he still entrusted us with these children...All of us come up short as parents - but Christ promises to make up for what we lack"

4. Guilt Can Teach Us to Love Mercy

"Without acknowledging our own guilt, we would never sense the need for mercy, so we wouldn't appreciate this glorious gift of God. And without the guilt of others, we would never be able to apply mercy."

5. Guilt Has a Positive "Hidden Agenda"

"I told one group of men that I wished I could start parenting now, at age 41. I feel more mature at this point, more settled in my career; with a better perspective to begin parenting than when my daughter was born to me at the age of 25. But here's the rub: What helped me to become more mature? What has given me a better perspective? What has worked on my character over the past decade and a half? Raising my kids!"

"God has created an institution - the family - through which he can shape, mold, and form all of us, parents included. We come into the family as imperfect people, and we sin against each other every day; yet through rubbing shoulders and learning to ask for, and offer, forgiveness, we all come out the richer for taking part in this sometimes painful process."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Simple Prayer

"Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I'm too full, I might get independent, saying, 'God? Who needs him?' If I'm poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God" - Proverbs 30:8-9 (msg)

I don't know about you, but I have never prayed "God, please don't bless me too much". I would like nothing more than to have every one of my hopes and dreams come true...every one of my hurts healed. But if this happened, would I still feel my need for God? Would I still seek His wisdom and depend on Him to guide me? Would I still come to Him knowing that I am incapable of being the woman I desire to be without His strength and grace? Maybe...but not likely.

John Eldredge writes "Whatever might be the reason for our disappointments, there is no question that God uses them to draw us to himself. To wean our hearts from every other perceived source of life, so that we might come to find our life in Him. This may be why every one of us bears at least one major and lingering disappointment in our life"

Ouch. If what he says is true, then some of my prayers may never be answered. Some of my dreams may never come true. Can I be content with that? Will I allow my disappointments to draw me closer to Jesus so that He can fill the void? My hope is that I can. For God knows exactly what I need and I can trust Him to provide just the right amount of blessing in my life for me to thrive.

My Escape

I just got to escape with my husband for 24 hours! We make it a goal to get away overnight once or twice a year, and I highly suggest that if you are married with kids you do the same! It's so easy to get consumed with our responsibilities at home that we neglect to spend quality time with our spouses. Sometimes it's hard for me to justify spending the money to get away. There are so many things calling out for my treasure! But my relationship with my spouse needs to be We don't have lots of money to do anything extravagent, so I found a place that is close to home...yet feels like we're far away. It is part of Donna's Premiere Lodging in Berlin, OH. I first chose their Original Log Cabin because it was the cheapest, but I have fallen in love with the little place. We have been there 3 times so far. (They have a referral program, so if this place sparks an interest, please contact me!) Each time we go I come home feeling refreshed. I am sad to leave my little cabin in the woods, yet at the same time anxious to walk in the door and hear my boys scream "Mommy!" and run into my arms.
I owe a big THANK YOU to my mother-in-law for filling my shoes for a day and watching my crazy boys :) Thanks to my husband for loving me unconditionally and walking with me on this journey. I love you with all my heart. And most of all, thank you to my God for blessing me beyond measure.