Dec 7, 2010

Imperfection At It's Best

Sometimes I get into the habit of thinking that I've got it all together - I think, "I got this." Lately, however, I've been coming face to face with my absolute humanity. There is a reason there is a Proverb that says, "First pride, then crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall." I'm usually a pretty crafty person and enjoy doing lots of creative things but recently it seems as though everything I put together falls apart pretty quickly or just doesn't come together the way I thought/hoped it would.  When this happens a lot, I tend to start feeling like a failure and not even want to try anything. Of course, this Christmas I have a few crafty projects on my to-do list and have been a little apprehensive about starting them for fear of failure. And it's not just the crafting stuff that I've been feeling like a failure about, there are other areas in my life that have had the light of God's correction on them and I've just been so, hmmmm...embarrassed, frustrated, annoyed with myself, etcetera, etcetera...about them. So this morning I took some time and prayed about it all. As I was praying a list began forming in my mind...

I am not perfect, the list:
  • I focus on myself when I should focus on others
  • I spend when I should save
  • I save when I should give
  • I yell when I should keep my mouth shut
  • I keep my mouth shut when I should speak up
  • I am not offended when there is an offense against God's Kingdom
  • I am quick to be offended when my pride is injured
  • I have my feet up relaxing when my hand should be to the plow
  • My hand is to the plow when I should be resting
  • I am not happy with what God has generously given and all too often only notice the blessing when it's gone
  • I give up when I should press on
  • I press the issue when I should relent
On and on the list can go. As my "imperfection list"began getting longer and longer and as I quickly spouted one thing off after another, a section from Paul's letter to the Romans came to my mind, 
"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." (ESV)
You would think that my list of imperfections would keep me down in the dumps and my head down in frustration and guilt. But just as I began feeling like there is no hope and I'll never have what it takes, I remembered, "DUH, that's exactly how I'm supposed to feel in light of Jesus' perfection."

The light began to peak through the darkness that I was feeling in my heart and I began to realize that God has been showing me just how much I need Him. The list of my imperfections is so long and all too true. But does that mean that I am doomed to failure for my entire life? Nope. Because once this life on earth is done my new life will begin and never end. The life of righteousness that is promised to all those who trust in Christ and him alone for salvation.

Nov 4, 2010

Updates on Prayers

I'm the type of person that likes updates when I'm praying for people. So, I thought it would be good for me to take some time to give you some updates on things that I've been praying about lately, just in case you have been praying as well. 

First, on the adoption front, there have been one or two more situations with our agency for which we were not chosen. It is strange to say, but I had total peace about those decisions. There was one that we felt like was a big stretch for us but went for it anyway. God knows us better than we know ourselves and so it was a weird kind of relief when we weren't selected. There haven't been any new situations with the agency for a few weeks now. I'm not really concerned because I remember last year being the same way, so I feel more prepared for this year.

Secondly, on the job/finances front, I have found a part-time jobish type thing. I have a hard time calling it a job because it doesn't actually pay money. You might think I'm crazy given our financial state-of-affairs, but Jeremy has been able to pick up more coverage hours since the beginning of the school year, which has meant more inflow of money. The Lord is really providing for our needs now (and even some wants too!). I will most likely have to revisit the job-that-pays-money situation in the spring though because Jeremy's ability to work at schools will greatly decrease. But that's okay and I'm sure God will provide what we need when we need it.

So what is this job-type situation? Well, I've been working a couple/few days a week for a guy that teaches cooking classes! I stay in the background (setting up ingredients, washing dishes, etc.) while he is teaching the class. I LOVE it! In return for my hard work I get to take any class I want to for free AND if I work a bunch of times without taking classes I can have my own "party" and do a class with a bunch of my friends! This is such a good fit for me because I love to cook and I love to learn about cooking (I used to watch the Food Network for HOURS). It has been a huge blessing and a relief to the loneliness and purposelessness that I've been feeling.

Well, speaking of purpose, I have to end this entry now. I have a disgusting carpet that unfortunately won't steam clean itself. Thanks for reading and keeping me in your prayers! 

Oct 14, 2010

A Life on Hold, Defined.

Two years ago this week Jeremy & I attended an Educational Training for Domestic Adoption with our adoption agency.  We had literally just begun the paperwork "phase" of our adoption and attending this required, half-day class really started to make the whole thing real. Very little that we actually talked about has stuck with me (except for the part about me using poor "adoption language" because I was so focused on NOT using poor "adoption language" and I got to be an example for the whole class. And then there was the part where I was made to feel like an idiot because I have such a strong relationship with my family...but I digress). Thankfully, at this class we were given a big binder with tons of articles and information regarding adoption, child development, resources for what to do when there may be an adoption related issue with our child. On our ride home I began flipping through the binder and happened upon an interesting article titled "Lessons Learned While Waiting" by Dawn Powell, an adoptive mother.

The first lesson was "Don't put your life on hold while waiting. Make plans, commit to engagements, vacations, etc. Plan and do whatever you would do normally. Psalm 90:12" At the time I remember thinking, "That should be easy since we probably won't be waiting that long anyway." Cut to two years later and a year and a half in waiting status with our agency. Over the course of the year and half of waiting there were times that it was really hard to not be "on hold" and there have been times where life has almost been normal.

This week, when I picked up this binder to page through it again (I had no idea, but it was the exact two year mark, weird, right?), I turned to this page once more and I immediately felt sick. I've been flooded with memories of choices I've made, feelings I've had that all equal a life on hold. If someone had told me then, what I know now, I wonder how things would be different. Well, in the interest of hopefully helping someone else not make the same mistakes, here are some examples of a life on hold:
  • Daily Life: When I first left my full-time job in order to work with Jeremy's company, I was ecstatic. I was so thankful that God had given me the opportunity, that he had blessed their hard work so that it was even feasible (still praising him now for that). But I went even further and saw it as a sign that God was freeing me up to be a stay-at-home mom just like I'd always dreamed. I spent most of my days getting the house ready for a baby, making sure everything was clean and organized. Everything I did was because we had/have an adoption in the works and everyone says how sudden it is when you get "the call". For a while, I always wanted be at home when the agency called. When I went to the store, I would envision myself having to have what could be a very emotional conversation in the middle of Wegmans (for example).
  • Vacations: Yes, we went on vacations during these past two years. They were even fun. But to be honest I don't think I was completely present. On more than one occasion we had just gotten information about an adoptive situation and requested our profile to be shown to the birth parents. During our vacation we were waiting to hear what the outcome would be. I spent an unhealthy amount of time daydreaming about how fun it would be to get "the news" while we were with friends and family. Then, as time wore on, I would know in my gut that we weren't chosen and my thoughts would switch to "how am I going to keep it together and pretend everything is ok" when we would get the confirmation. 
  • Missions: During our two years in this adoption journey there have been two opportunities to serve on short term missions trips. Both opportunities were declined because I was fearful of what would happen if we finally were chosen and we were no where near home and couldn't be reached by the agency. I'm so ashamed that I let my fears and my selfishness get in the way of what could have been a wonderful time of serving God.
I think the living of my life has been on hold. I may go through the motions and make plans, attend events, etc. In the article, Dawn Powell urged waiting parents to do what they would normally do. But I would go further, I would encourage waiting parents to strive to be present while you are doing what you normally do. Fight the desire to make everything about the waiting. Try to experience life to the fullest, take advantage of every opportunity that God gives you during this time.  Sure, waiting is a huge part of your life...unescapable for a time...and no one can really understand it unless you've been through it (or are still going through it). I wish I would have known what exactly I had to guard against in the beginning - the desire to live in the waiting, instead of living while I'm waiting. Thankfully, God has decided to make it clear to me now. I wish I could flip a switch and just stop the struggle, but in fact, it will take a battle to actually start living life again.

Oh! Teach us to live well! 
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Psalm 90:12 MSG

Sep 16, 2010

Job Search

I wonder, does everyone else in the world go through the same struggle of trying to keep up with a journal or is it just me? I've never really been good at it; I go through phases at best.  I probably should have 'fessed up to that in the beginning, oh well. Here's what is going on in my spiritual journey these days. I've almost completely decided that I'm going to be searching for a part-time job in the very imminent future (convincing?). It's been in the back of my mind for a long time now and I've been sort of praying about a what to do, where to apply, etc. In the past few weeks it's been in the very front of my mind and I pray about it every time I think of it.  I have never felt so directionless in my life, ok, probably I have - but I'm starting to get annoyed with myself.

There are so many things that I want to get out of this "job" this time around. I don't want a career, I want a job. Thankfully, the income needs only be supplemental, so I want to do something I like to do, and not feel bad about not being paid a lot. This job though, will get me out of the house for a few hours a week so that I can see people and be social again.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that I work from home and have most of my day to myself (I'm selfish like that), but I've been feeling more and more lonely as time goes on and that is not good. I'm looking forward to opening myself up to another "life sphere" as my pastor calls it - an area of influence, people you are in contact with on a regular basis.

The problem is that I'm having a hard time figuring out where I fit in. The last time I worked in a bookstore, I loved it. I enjoyed talking with people about books, music, etc. Sure there were really annoying things that happened and the pay stunk, but when I think back over every job I had, that's what I enjoyed the most. I've been asking God if that's where I fit, if that's where he wants me to be planted and I keep feeling like it's an "almost". I'm beginning to wonder if maybe my laziness or fear of change is weighing too heavily on the decision, or is it truly not the right fit?

Another bit of advice I've been given is to use my creative talents and do something in the graphic design avenue. While this idea is very attractive to me, it is also beyond overwhelming for me to think about. I have no schooling in this area and only minimal experience. I also have a hard time knowing for sure if I'm really good at it or just a hacker. It also doesn't get me out of the house and around people. But am I just being a scaredy cat and not taking a plunge that will lead to a fulfilling employment?

So at the end of this entry I still am filled with questions. After months of passively thinking/praying and weeks of actively thinking/praying about it, I'm still in the same deadlock. Not sure which step to take. I know a decision has to be made and soon. I'll let you know what pans the mean time, any suggestions?

God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes.You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. 
1 Corinthians 2:7 

Aug 31, 2010

Thoughts from earlier this summer.

I don't know about you (my fellow blogging friends), but after I started blogging or even reading blogs, the way I processed life's happenings changed a little. I started coming up with ways to describe what was happening to other people even in the midst of thing I was planning to describe later. Sick, I know.

About a month before our annual vacation (which occurred last week), we started to loose some footing with our finances. During one of the discussions surrounding this issue I was feeling really overwhelmed and a little frightened. As I was trying to process everything all of a sudden this exact thought went through my head, "Financially we are not doing so great. Actually to be more precise, we are drowning." Who does that? Who comes up with these "one-liners" in order to make sense of everything going on? Well, apparently, I do. 

Here's the awesome thing about my thought process, as soon as I thought the word "drowning", the imagry of an article I had read a couple weeks before came washing over me. This article is about what it really looks like when one is drowning. The author is Mario Vittone and he points out that actual drowning looks nothing like what we are so used to seeing on TV. The TV version shows someone splashing and screaming and able to turn attention to themselves. The real version is much scarier, silence and apparent calm. If you were to observe someone in the process of drowning from behind, you might never know that they are actually in grave danger.

The connection I made in my mind and my heart that evening was this, people wouldn't know to look at us that we are struggling everyday to keep our head above water, but we are. My instinct in trouble is to be tight lipped, to smile and act like I don't feel that my world is crumbling around me. When the illustration of drowning was applied to this instinct, I was convicted once again that, as a Christian this is not how I am supposed to behave. I'm supposed to be open about my short-comings and failures so that the glory and honor of any of "my" success is directed to God. When others see me experience hard times*, they will also get to see God work when he provides over and above what we could have asked for.  How will they know the greatness of what God has done if they don't see the depth of where I was? I was reminded of Paul and his openness about who he was before Christ entered his life. He was so open about not earning any of the grace he received. I was encouraged by his letter to Timothy, in it he says:
The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus. Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. (1 Tim 1:13-16)
Once again I'm striving to be more open about all that God has done for me. It's sort of easier to do in writing, since I don't have to see anyone's face. But I've been trying to push myself to not just smile and say "everything's fine" when people ask. I'm making an effort to be more accurate, to not play out a charade and let others see that God is able to be trusted even in the hard times.

*I recently found two sections of scripture that help in the midst of a hard time as a result of my bad decisions and sinful nature. These are Romans 6 and Lamentations 3. Both are excellent and well worth a read if you have time.

Jul 26, 2010

Dear Journal,

It's been such a long time since I've written anything.  There's so much going on inside my head and my heart, I feel like I can't get a grasp on any one thing to make a good journal entry about it. My "friendship" study is not going anywhere and I feel like my Bible reading is pretty aimless right now.  I want my heart to be full of praising God for all the good he has done, for all of his provisions and protection, for the beauty of his creation and so on. Instead, while I do praise him and thank him, my heart is full of questions, weary from waiting, wondering at his plan. I guess I need to start practicing what is taught in the Psalms to get my soul out of the dumps. I need to start "rehearsing everything I know of [him]." (Psalm 42:6) So, here we go, my list of what I personally know of God (and can put into words).
  • God created this earth and I am continually enthralled by the beauty of his artistry.
  • God is in control over everything and nothing goes unnoticed by him.
  • God loves me and in his love, he disciplines me 
  • God never pushes me past the limit in any test or temptation I face.
  • God chooses better for me than I choose for myself. Even if it doesn't always feel like it at the time.
  • God gives good gifts - just what we need, just when we need it
  • God listens to my heart, knows what I am feeling, and provides answers and encouragement through conversations with fellow believers, through songs on the radio, through sermons at church and through my quiet time with Him.
  • God has spared my very life on multiple occasions. He knows how long I will live.
  • God provides people to love me the way I am and gives me love for people, just the way they are.

There is so much more but this is a good list for me to repeat to myself for the day.

    Psalm 42:5-9 MSG
    Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
    Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
    He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.
    When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
    everything I know of you,
    From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
    including Mount Mizar.
    Chaos calls to chaos,
    to the tune of whitewater rapids.
    Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
    crash and crush me.
    Then God promises to love me all day,
    sing songs all through the night!
    My life is God’s prayer.
    Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
    “Why did you let me down?
    Why am I walking around in tears,
    harassed by enemies?”

    Jul 9, 2010

    Being Thrown For A Loop.

    About once a month (ahem) I struggle with keeping my emotions in check. I'm fairly certain that this is a very common struggle among women. This month seemed like even more of a struggle for me since there were a couple more compounding circumstances than usual.  On Monday, our less than three year old refrigerator died and needs a costly repair. After a long day of not knowing if we could afford the repair, God totally provided and the repair will happen.  However, the earliest appointment we could get was a week and a half from then, this coming Wednesday.   The next day, I spotted a leak in our ceiling right under where our laundry closet is on the third floor. Lovely. It is not a leak from our washer, it's actually from our dryer vent. So now THAT needs to be fixed too.  Yay - owning a home is fun! Any other day these things would definitely seem minor and I know that I would be able to roll with the seemingly never ending punches. This week, not so much. So, I've been grumpy, downcast, annoyed at little things, and generally feeling defeated. 

    This morning is when everything started to catch up to me: circumstances, hormones, etc. etc. and I started to feel like I was coming apart at the seams.  Then I realized that I had let my quiet times with God lapse. I had still been praying, but not as often and not as in depth as I had been before. So, as hard as it was, I opened my Bible and prayed for comfort. Two verses came to mind and so I concentrated on reading those and praying through them.

    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 ESV

    I certainly was feeling heavy laden and was in desperate need of rest from the frustrations of this world.  So, I went to Him, I continued to read and pray through verses that had given me comfort before, such as Romans 8:24-28. I was starting to feel better, more controlled. I was just about to finish up with my quiet time and another verse floated through my head with a melody that I had learned a long time ago. The funny thing is I could only remember the first part of the verse and it got me thinking...
    Let not your hearts be troubled. 
    Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1 ESV

    Over and over again in my head, I was hearing "Let not your hearts be troubled, let not your hearts be troubled..." And then it dawned on me. This is an ACTIVE command, "LET NOT your hearts be troubled. BELIEVE in God, BELIEVE also in me." I have a responsibility to not let my heart become troubled with everything that is going on! I have always considered this a passive, encouragement from Jesus. But I now think that it is a command to turn off the voices of worry and woes and choose to believe in God, choose to believe in Jesus. Instead of letting my emotions run crazy and my hopes and dreams plummet to the floor to be trampled, I need to pick myself up and not "let these things throw [me]." as the Message version puts it. So, I wiped my tears from my eyes and determined to move on, believe in God and trust His plan for my life.

    Jun 30, 2010

    Thoughts about "Women, Food and God" part 1

    I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. This post has been rattling around in my head for a good week or so.  Every time the thoughts are at their clearest and flowing freely, I am either in the middle of something or have yet to begin a chore that I desperately need to do.  Then, when the time comes to get it out, the thoughts aren't there or aren't as clear. Frustrating. So, I apologize for any rambling-ness to this entry.

    I recently listened to an audiobook that was lent to me by a friend. It's a popular title, "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth. I am glad to have listened to this book, because I may not have made it all the way through if I was reading it. I'm also glad for some of the thoughts that were expressed in the book. It was written for anyone who eats or thinks about food obsessively or nearly obsessively. I valued a lot of what Ms. Roth had to say and I think it shed some light on an area in my life that I had not been thinking about correctly. However there are quite a few ideas and views with which I certainly did not agree. First and foremost, I did not agree with how she identified and defined "God." All I will say about that for now is that this book does not refer to the One True God rather a god that was created by the author for her own benefit and the supposed benefit of the reader.

    The disagreement I'd like to unfold more is her idea that in order to set things right in our mind we need to find and go back to the part that is inside each of us that is not broken, still pure, and that we are to learn to trust ourselves again by focusing on and identifying this part in our being. There was so much riding on this idea in the book that I'm actually surprised that I still found some helpful ideas, but I did. 

    I agree with her that the way I have viewed food and eating is broken and I really appreciated some ideas and guidelines that she suggested to help relearn how to view food correctly.  However, I firmly disagree with the idea that suggests that there is any part of myself that is unbroken or completely pure. You see, I'm human and therefore when I was born I was already imperfect. In this world there is no one that is perfect, no one that is unbroken, not even one. So, I have been irked by this idea since she first brought it up. 

    If I am to make any headway in solving this broken area in my life I need to rely on *THE* Unbroken One, The God and Father who created us and loves us even in our brokenness.  I need to continually acknowledge that I do not have the power to fix myself and humbly admit that there is nothing good in me save the work of my Father in my heart.  HE provided the solution to this sinful state that we live in.  I think that buying into this idea that there is some part of me that has been unaffected by the world is going to lead to nothing but frustration and discouragement and will just feed into the cycle.

    Since listening to this book I have been praying that God would give me the wisdom I need to make better choices regarding food and my relationship to it. He is faithful just as he says he will be:

    If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father.
    He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be
    condescended to when you ask for it.
    James 1:5 MSG

    Praying to God (the real one) and really thinking about the reasons I want to eat at any particular time has been a huge help. It takes practice and there are a few helpful suggestions that Geneen Roth has provided. I plan on writing about this book again (hence the part 1 in the title), but for now I just had to get these thoughts out before I completely lost them.

    Jun 18, 2010

    Book Suggestions Needed.

    I have just officially finished reading completely through the Bible at the beginning of this week. It was such a wonderfully growing experience. In the last couple of days I have begun to do some reading on the first topic I mentioned in my previous entry - friendship.  I'm reading the concordance verses (along with the contextual verses) that are listed for "friendship" and I can tell that I'm going to need to look into some more resources and do some more digging if I want this to be a meaningful learning experience. So, does anyone have any suggestions? Any study books that have helped you in this area of your life? 

    You use steel to sharpen steel,
    and one friend sharpens another.
    Proverbs 27:17

    Haha, I couldn't resist putting these songs on here.

    Jun 10, 2010

    A Journey's *THAT* Journey...

    *THAT* journey is our adoption journey and that is not yet at an end. However, I have been on another journey this year, a journey through the Bible. In February 2009 I began reading through the entire Bible for the first time. I made a commitment to finish it, but didn't give myself a time line.  After a 1 year and 4 months  I have begun reading the book of Revelation.  I had sort of been a little apprehensive about this book. There are so many different opinions regarding it's contents. In my life I've heard at least 4 or 5 different teachings about what Revelation means for the Christian life: end times time-line, prophesy, poetry, etc. I was excited to be reading it in a different version than I had read before. I felt like I could go into it fresh, without all the questions and ponderings with which I had previously approached it.  So far I am enjoying the reading immensely.  It is so worshipful, what a great way to end my journey through the Bible. 

    I must say that I am getting very excited to decide on my next reading plan. I think I'd like to do a topical study for a little while. In reflection though, it was so amazing to see how what I was reading in the Bible-in-a-little-over-a-year-Livi-style reading plan matched up with what I was feeling at that particular time. Worry, impatience, anger, numbness, joy, excitement, you name it, I've felt it over this last year and God's Word dealt with it at that precise time. I didn't do any hunting nor topic searches, but the Spirit within me helped me to identify what God had to say about what I felt. Even so, there are some areas of growth that I'd like to work on and I know that God's Word will help me to grow in them.

    SO, since I've decided to use this journal as an outlet to all I'm learning about with God in my life, I think I'll share a couple of the ideas that I plan to study.
    • Friendship: What does it look like in God's Word to be a good friend? Who are some examples that I can learn from? What is the balance between being a friend to the world and being too friendly with the world?
    • Passionate Patience: In 1 Peter 1:5-8, Peter uses the phrase "passionate patience." It has stuck with me and I really want to look into it more. Perhaps I'll use the People of Faith's stories for examples to learn from.
     I'm really looking forward to these areas of study, but I must finish what I've started first.  

    And they chanted night and day, never taking a break:
    Holy, holy, holy
    Is God our Master, Sovereign-Strong,
    The Was, The Is, The Coming.
    Revelation 4:8

    Jun 1, 2010

    Faith in What We Don't See

    To be honest there was one particular chapter I was excited to read in my personal "journey through the Bible" this year. I know that the whole of scripture is God-breathed and useful, but I was looking forward to Hebrews 11, The Faith Chapter.  I say was because last week I finally got to it and I must say that it was a lot more convicting that I remembered (hahaha).

    I've always found this chapter to be so uplifting and encouraging - sort of like the "after" part of a "before & after" show on TV. Having read all the background stories of each of the people mentioned fairly recently, it was pretty great to see that even though they were flawed and they messed up along the way, their faith in God is what is remembered. As I read through the first twelve verses it was like pure encouragement to my wavering resolve to completely trust in God regarding his plan for our family. I even went so far as to pray that God would allow people to look back on my actions and say, "By an act of faith, Olivia waited and waited and waited for God to deliver a child into her family." (That's kind of embarrassing now as I read this, it sounds a pretty obnoxious...).  

    I then continued reading  and got to vs 13, "Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing." Pow! Smack! Wham! What a wake-up call!  You see, I realized that what they were looking forward to was not worldly happiness nor life dreams fulfilled, but life eternal, life forever with God. I love how this next part is said in The Message: "How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home." Hebrews 11:13b-14. 

    Once again I was convicted that my focus has been drawn to what is happening (or not happening) to me in this world rather than looking toward things eternal. I needed some time to confess this before God and really make an effort, with God's help, to accept the fact that I am only a transient in this world. I desire that God will bless us with a child in this life, but I am not to place my hope in that desire.  My hope is in God and in eternal life with him made possible through Jesus' death and resurrection. My eyes should not be downcast and disappointed, but looking up, peering toward my true home. 

    I feel like this is something that will be a constant struggle for me.  Looking back over the short life of this journal I confirm that it has been on my heart often. I continue in my prayer that God will capture my full attention and that it will be his forever.

    May 31, 2010

    Thank You.

    This weekend I have been burdened to truly stop and thank God for the sacrifice that was made by so many men and women who served country in the armed forces.  Today, I am especially burdened when I think of the families who have lost their father, mother, brother, sister, husband or wife as well as all who knew a particular soldier who died. In years past I had taken Memorial Day lightly. I don't personally know anyone who died in service of our country, so sadly my attention was on the day off from work or school, the picnics, the sales, etc.  I'm not sure why this year it has caught my attention again, but it has.  

    I'm sad to think that I never knew just how many men and women were killed in the line of duty. So this morning I did a little internet research and finally found a list. As a disclaimer, I'm not sure where this person found this information, so don't sue me if it's wrong.  I was absolutely blown away to see this number: 766,411  men and women have lost their lives serving this country.

    Today, I am thanking God for the sacrifice of 766,411 men and women. I am honoring their memory by praying for the families and friends left behind. I am praying for resolution to the current wars and for protection over the soldiers who are in the line of duty. I am not taking today lightly, and I hope that you will consider doing the same.

    From the blog "" 
    The following is a list of past wars and the numbers of soldiers that perished:

    American Revolution (1775 - 1783)
    4,400 American Soldiers died

    War of 1812 (1812 - 1815)
    2,300 American soldiers died

    Civil War (1861 - 1865)
    134,000 American soldiers died

    Spanish-American War (April 25, 1898 - April 12, 1898)
    2,500 American soldiers died

    WWI (1914 - 1918)
    117,000 American soldiers died

    WWII (1939 - 1945)
    407,000 American soldiers died

    Korean War (1950 - 1953)
    36,500 American soldiers died

    Vietnam War (1965 - 1974)
    58,000 American soldiers died

    Persian Gulf War (August 1990 - April 1991)
    148 American soldiers died

    Afghani War (October 2001 - Present)
    Approximately 493 American soldiers have died and the number continues to rise as the conflict still continues...

    Iraq War (March 2003 - Present)
    Approximately 4,070 American soldiers have died and the number continues to rise as the conflict continues...

    May 19, 2010

    Not much to say today

    Last week Jeremy and I had a wonderful time down in Corolla, NC. We spent the week just relaxing and enjoying the company of some really great friends.  It was awesome to spend my quiet times listening to the crashing of the waves and the call of the various sea birds. Even though I had wonderful times of reading God's Word and praying, I really didn't have anything "journal worthy." I still feel the same.  I'm not sure what is going on in this heart of mine, but I just haven't felt connected. There are some biological excuses (PMS) that I could make, but I don't think that is the whole story here.  I'm praying about it a lot, but don't have any answers yet. I'm only making a journal entry now because I really don't want to get out of the habit. Also, I said I'd be open and honest with what's going on in my life. I guess that includes times like these, when I don't feel like there is a lot going on. 

    In light of our vacation last week, I've been meditating on a few verses from Psalm 42 that were brought to my attention again through my Bible Study book this week. I'll end with them:

    Chaos calls to chaos, 
to the tune of whitewater rapids. 

    Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers 
crash and crush me.
    Then God promises to love me all day, 

    sing songs all through the night! 
My life is God’s prayer.
    (Psalm 42: 7-8)

    May 7, 2010

    Why didn't I think of this before?

    I really wanted to title this entry "All Paths Lead to God - With a Twist." But I was scared to actually put it in big letters at the top. I don't really believe that all paths lead to God. Actually, I firmly believe that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.  

    For the past week or so I've been thinking about a conversation I had with a friend (after reading this she'll know who she is, and will probably be sick of me saying the same thing again, but it really affected a good way). My friend and I have had completely different circumstances and life stories. I'm not going to share any of her life story details, but I will share some about mine.  As I've mentioned along the way here, I am a waiting adoptive mother. What that means is my husband and I have been approved as an adoptive family and we are waiting to be selected by a birth-family to parent their child.  Last week we passed our one year anniversary of being approved. In the beginning we told a lot of people about each new "situation" that came up for us to be considered. Each time we then had to tell a lot of people that we were not chosen.  I think we did this about 4 or 5 times before we came to realize that it was just too painful to continue telling everyone every time. So, we've been keeping each new situation quiet and will tell everyone when we are selected.

    So, here's the thing, this journey has been hard. We've sort of made it seem like we're just waiting around and that there's "no news," as we like to say. But that's not the case.  There have been multiple children that have found their forever home and it was not ours.  Being "not chosen" feels like being rejected - even though in reality that's not what is happening. When this occurred time after time after time I started to question God's goodness, I questioned whether he really knows what he's doing, I questioned whether he had my best at heart.  I would read the Psalms and when it talked about "enemies taunting" I understood it to be the thoughts in my head saying, "Where is this God of yours?" I would wonder what purpose God had for this experience in my life. 

    It is at this point that our two stories converge. You see my friend was asking the same questions and she had not experienced the same journey that I had, not at all.  And yet, here we were with an almost word-for-word identical struggle.  My heart ached for her when she was talking because I knew the pain that comes with those questions. And all of a sudden I realized a shocking (to me) truth: what I've learned on my completely different journey would be helpful to her. NOT because I'm so clever, but because what I learned, what I have clung to and leaned on and depend on is God's truth in his Word, the Bible. God has spoken to my heart through various passages that I was able to share with my friend.  

    In kind of a mash of thoughts it became clear to me that this is how we are supposed to minister to each other. I'm not supposed to just sit and wait until someone with my exact life experience happens to appear in my life and ask me for help. Rather, I'm called to speak and minister to those in my life because God's truth applies to every situation, every journey, every struggle and God can use any path to bring us to himself. 

    Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. 
    Hebrews 10:24-25

    Apr 29, 2010

    Before and After

    I love the idea of facebook. Connecting once again to people you've lost touch with after school or people you used to work with but don't get to see very often.  It is a joy for me to see so many of the "girls" I went through school with become beautiful, strong, women of God.  However, to be honest ever since I began my facebook account I have had many, many thought-sessions about who I was in high school, who I was in college and who I am now. 

    I think that's why it was so great for me to hear Beth Moore's conference about insecurities (as I mentioned in this previous entry) and becoming a secure woman of God. I have struggled with insecurity for the better part of my life and especially so in high school. I was painfully shy and extremely self-conscious. There were so many things about myself that I hated and I was so sure that they were the only things about me that anyone else could see. Right now as I'm typing this out I'm tempted to list all those things out because they are so fresh in my mind and after so many years, they are still the same things that taunt me quite often - but that wouldn't be very helpful for anyone.

    There is a quote from the teaching at the conference on Saturday that I have been trying to grasp and take hold of in my life. I'm not sure if she says this quote in her book (I've started it but am only 3 chapters in), but at the conference Beth (we're on a first name basis now) said, "As Christians we are to be poster-children of a 'before and after' life." What she meant was that if we are about to react to a situation out of insecurity, we need to stop and think, "this is how I would have reacted then, but now I'm a secure woman of God and need to react in a different way." This thought has been rocking my world.

    Hence, the reason I've been thinking a lot of my "before." It is so uncomfortable for me to think about this type of decision making and reaction style. It feels so opposite to myself...AND IT IS!  That's the point. And yet I still get all nervous and anxious just thinking about it. This is where the other tidbits that I've been reading come in to view.  Ephesians 4:30 says, "...his Holy Spirit moving and breathing in you is the most intimate part of your life..." That verse has been my memory verse for the week (and yet I still looked it up to make sure I got it right).  The chapter that I'm reading in the book Metamorpha talks about relating to the Holy Spirit as a person, not just a power available to me. This person lives and moves within me and knows me better than I know myself.  This relationship with the Holy Spirit is where I get the strength to live out a life that demonstrates security in Christ.

    Since I got back from the conference I have been making an effort to do the self-talk thing, trying to figure out an "after" way of thinking about myself and living my life. However, it's surprisingly hard and I'm going to be praying and thinking through it for a while I think.

    Apr 27, 2010

    We're gonna need a bigger boat.

    This morning my mind was drawn back to the famous quote from the movie Jaws, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!" I was thinking back over everything that I've been learning these past couple days and I just feel so overwhelmed by all of the challenges and encouragements that are now floating around in my head.  I think I need about an hour a day for a month or so to be able to start making headway on taking these lessons into my life and being changed by them.

    After about a month of feeling like I was a sitting duck waiting for my next lesson(s) they all come at about the same time.  All of these lessons are connected together, but I need time before I'm able to make all the connections make sense.  

    On Saturday, April 24th I attended a Beth Moore conference based on her book So Long, Insecurity.  I was reminded and encouraged of so much regarding my security in Christ. I haven't read the book yet, but I am now planning on it (it's been on my iPhone for about a month -  all I need to do is take the time to read it). I'll share with you just one of the challenges I heard at the conference:  
    • Insecurity is not just a minor weakness, it is a symptom of unbelief. Youch! 
    In addition to all of these lessons about my security in Christ, I am reading chapter 4 of the book Metamorpha. This chapter is about the Holy Spirit as a person, alive and living in me. The chapter is so good that I will literally need to read it a couple times before Bible Study on Monday.  One of the ideas in this book that has caught my attention is this:
    "We often talk about the Spirit in light of his fruit or power, but rarely do we really know the Spirit as the person who lives within us."
    This morning in my prayer time, continuing in my Bible reading (now in Ephesians) this idea was confirmed in chapter 4 verse 30: 
    "Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted."
    As you can see, my plate is once again full of things to meditate on. But as I've just read, the Holy Spirit is within me and will help me to make sense of it all. He will show me the connections and how they apply to me. Which means that there is plenty for me to journal about for a while.

    Apr 22, 2010

    Connection Failed. Try Again?

    These past seven days felt really long. In the beginning things were good and normal. By the end of the week I began feeling parched and a little zombie-ish.  I've been thinking about what/when my next entry would be...thinking about it and only vaguely praying about it.  See, it started one day when there was something more pressing than reading my Bible and praying. Then the next day, something else came up that was also "more important." By day three, the thought was more like, "oh yeah, and I should read my Bible if I have time." That's when my connection started to fail. My prayers became more shallow and less of a conversation. The focus shifted from what God is doing to what I thought he should be doing.

    I haven't had a teachable heart these past few days. This morning I made the choice to once again sit and read and pray and open up my heart to my Savior. At this point it was a choice, an action that had come so easily just a week before was now shoved to the back burner, and my heart felt the displacement.  My mind struggled again with sinful thought patterns that have already been conquered.  I guess that's when I realized that I had disconnected myself from The Vine.  This morning's act of humility and obedience felt like cool water to my parched soul.

    It is important to remind myself that God did not disconnect from me.  I know this because He has promised it, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you." (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, it was His urging that I was not heeding when I decided to not spend time with him. I'm so thankful that I have a God that pursues a relationship with me. He is jealous for my attention and will not let me go

    Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 
    Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
    (James 4:8 ESV)

    Apr 20, 2010

    It's been a long week. I have been praying about a few things. They aren't full thoughts that i am able to share at this point. I will say this, I am praising God for protecting some dear friends as they experienced a house fire. All family members were safe and the house will be restored. Praise Him for protecting those we care about.

    Apr 13, 2010

    Enjoying the View

    Sometimes I'm able to just sit back and enjoy the view of God working all things together in His time. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's beautiful.  Even when I'm not seeing the actual end result, just the build-up to the crescendo. That's how I feel right now. 

    I had a sweet thought yesterday on the way home from Bible study.  During Bible study I had stated that this waiting process has been the hardest thing I have experienced in my life thus far. In the car the thought occurred to me that at some point I will be able to look back and see exactly how God had guided this time. I will be able to see that this time that is really hard is building character in me, it's drawing me closer to my Savior. At some time in the future, this waiting process will be a thing of the past that I will have to try hard to remember exactly how I felt. There will be a new "hardest" trial. The sweetest part of this time is that it is a time that I will look back on and KNOW that God held me up and stayed close to me throughout the entire time. My relationship with God is so completely different know than it ever has been before. So in the midst of this journey of waiting I praise God for bringing the hardship and trial. I praise him for keeping me in the palm of his hand and pursuing His own glory rather than glorifying me. 

    I've been hearing a song on the radio recently that has nearly brought me to tears every time I hear it. I've turned the playlist off for now so that you can read the words and not be distracted by a different song. You can watch the slide show with lyrics at YouTube. The song is He Is With You sung by Mandisa, here are the lyrics:
    There's a time to live
    And a time to die
    There's a time to laugh
    And a time to cry

    There's a time for war
    And a time for peace
    There's a hand to hold
    In the worst of things
    In the worst of things

    He is with you when your faith is dead
    And you can't even get out of bed
    Or your husband doesn't kiss you anymore
    He is with you when your baby's gone
    And your house is still
    And your hearts are stone
    Crying "God what'd you do that for?"
    He is with you

    There's a time for yes
    And a time for no
    There's a time to be angry
    And a time to let it go
    There's a time to run
    And a time to face it
    There's love to seek
    In all of this
    Through all of this

    He is with you in the conference room
    When the world is coming down on you
    And your wife and kids don't know you anymore
    And He is with you in the ICU when the doctors don't know what to do
    And it scares you to the core
    He is with you

    We may weep for a time but joy will come in the morning
    The morning light

    He is with you when your kids are grown
    When there's too much space and you feel alone
    And your worried if you got it right or wrong
    Yes He is with you when you've given up on ever finding your true love
    Someone who feels like home
    He is with you

    When nothing else is left and you take your final breath
    He is with you

    He is with you

    Apr 9, 2010

    I Surrender All.

    Who didn't see this coming? The Lord answered my prayers this morning with a resounding "No." It smarts still. I'm trusting in Him and the perfection of his plan. I did read portions of Job this morning, particularly the portions with Job and God's conversation. I was struck by how similar my prayers were to Job's. God's response to Job in chapter 38 is especially humbling.

    "[Livi] answered God: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.  
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans." Job 42:1

    Apr 8, 2010

    Want, Want, Want

    My mind is pretty much a mess right now. I'm praying hard, trying to apply all that I've been learning over the past couple weeks.  I really want the Lord to hear my prayer and answer in favor of my request. I really want his will to be what I want...let me phrase it so that it is more clear what I'm saying. I want Him to want what I want. I know! I just wrote about how this is totally a wrong way to view prayer and waiting. I'm in constant conversation with my Lord; in my heart I know that His will is best. My mind keeps begging him to hear my prayer and include my desire in his plan. I feel like the widow who kept nagging the judge to hear her case (Luke 18:1-7).  However, it's not like I've been mistreated. My life has been blessed immensely by God. He has already done more than I could ever have dreamed.

    The other side of this internal conversation is urging me to want what God wants. Nothing is good unless it comes from him. Nothing is perfect unless his hand is on it (James 1:17). I truly know this and believe it but it's so hard to just surrender and give up control.

    As a side note, this small little entry took me 9 hours to finish. I started at 2 and have been staring at the half written post wondering how to bring it around. Today, I wasn't feeling it. Tomorrow, I pray that I will be able to focus on what God wants, to immerse myself even more in His word so that my spirit and soul can make battle on an attitude of discontent that is clearly evident in this entry. Maybe I should start with Job 41.

    Apr 6, 2010

    O, the Wonderful Cross!

    This Easter I meditated and prayed a lot about the power that was displayed in Jesus' resurrection. His resurrection accomplished so much for my benefit. So much that I could never hope to gain for myself.  In Romans 6: 6-9, Paul tells me exactly what was accomplished through this power. He says, "Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life--no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word." My heart and soul praise my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was a nobody and he made me an heir of his righteousness! I thank him for showing his power to conquer sin so that it no longer has the power over me. 
    "With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
    God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.  The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it." Romans 8:1-3

    Apr 2, 2010

    Good Friday.

    I've been meditating on Isaiah 53 today. It really is so incredibly powerful. I can't help but praise my Father in Heaven for knowing the lengths he would go to in order to make it possible to set things right.  It was His plan all along and he carried it out completely. I praise Him with my whole heart and am so excited to celebrate Jesus' resurrection on Sunday.

    Isaiah 53: 5 "But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed."

    John 11:49-53 "Then one of them—it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year—spoke up, “Don’t you know anything? Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?” He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God’s exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people.  From that day on, they plotted to kill him. 

    Isaiah 53:7-8 "He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off - and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people."

    John 19: 1-16 "So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they greeted him with slaps in the face. Pilate went back out again and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime.” Just then Jesus came out wearing the thorn crown and purple robe. Pilate announced, “Here he is: the Man.” When the high priests and police saw him, they shouted in a frenzy, “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he became even more scared. He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, “Where did you come from?Jesus gave no answer. Pilate said, “You won’t talk? Don’t you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to—crucify you?” Jesus said, “You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven. That’s why the one who betrayed me to you has committed a far greater fault.” At this, Pilate tried his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.” When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.” They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”  Pilate said, “I am to crucify your king?” The high priests answered, “We have no king except Caesar.Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified."

    Isaiah 53:9 "They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true."

    John 19: 17-18 "They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle."  John 19: 38-41 "After all this, Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. They took Jesus’ body and, following the Jewish burial custom, wrapped it in linen with the spices. There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed."

    To be continued...

    The Balancing Act of Waiting

    This Monday I was chatting with a dear friend who had been to a women's conference over the weekend. She told me about a great challenge she heard regarding waiting. I've been mulling it over and praying through it ever since then and I think it is definitely worth repeating.  

    The speaker said that there is a difference between waiting with expectancy and waiting expectantly.  When you are waiting expectantly, you are full of expectations that you want God to fulfill. In other words, you will be trying to tell God what to do the whole time you are waiting. When you are waiting with expectancy you are in full trust of God's plan, and are waiting to see how his plan will unfold.

    In Phillipians 4 vs. 6 and 7 we're told to present our requests to God with the promise that "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus" (ESV). So, here's the balancing part of it.  How do I make sure that I am being honest with God, presenting my requests to him, but not making demands of him? It is a line that I am finding very hard to walk. I have a tendency to pester my requests to God. 

    I am sure that I have been waiting expectantly for quite some time. It's tiring. Praise God that he shows me over and over again that I do not know best. It seems like this is a message that I've been hearing many times, each in a different way.  This challenge has been a helpful reminder that I need to constantly check my prayers to make sure I'm presenting my requests to God and not giving him a list of expectations.

    Mar 31, 2010

    Day-by-Day Obligations

    Yesterday was a busy day. Actually, it's been a busy couple days. Nothing of earth-shattering importance happened but my attention was completely focused on those small things. All day yesterday I was thinking, in the back of my mind, that I needed to post an entry into my journal. I even sat down to do my devotions, but not even halfway through the chapter my attention was grabbed away from the reading. I had my plans of what needed to be done and I was sticking to it. I felt like I redeemed it a little by praying along each step of the way that God would bless my efforts and help lots of money. OK Fine! I admit it, I was busy grocery shopping yesterday. Not just any grocery shopping though, coupon shopping. It's tiring and a little overwhelming at this point. So, you see it was really not earth-shattering. 

    At the end of the day I had finally decided what I was going to journal about. It was an awesome lesson that I've been thinking about since Monday. However, that will have to wait until another day.  This morning the Lord finally grabbed my attention and I have to confess again that I was convicted about how I spent my day yesterday. This is what I read this morning:
    But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of time and doze off, oblivious to God...God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute.  Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about. Romans 13:11-14
    That paragraph pretty much described my entire day yesterday. I was absorbed with finding the best deals, using the best coupons to save the most money I possibly could. I don't think I even looked at someone full in the face until one of my coupons was rejected and then I had to try and plead my case (to no avail arg!). My eyes were not open at all to what was going on around me, I was not engaged in God's work AT ALL.  Sure, I prayed, but it was self-centered and very immature.

    In the middle of my shopping day, I received the "sermon digest" email from our pastor.  I really enjoy getting these emails because it is a great reminder mid-week of what I was challenged with on Sunday.  Before entering one of the stores I took some time to read it. However, I didn't retain it at that point. The Lord brought it to mind this morning though, especially after reading the last part of those verses above, "Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about." My mind went back to a quote we heard on Sunday. Brace yourself, it's challenging. 
    Real faith is “a living, busy, active, mighty thing.  It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. Whoever does not do such works is an unbeliever.  Thus, it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.” (Martin Luther, preface to Paul's letter to the Romans in his 1522 edition of the German Bible)
    Ugh. [Now rest assured, the sermon didn't end there. If you want to listen to the whole thing you can go here.  But this is my journal, so I'm just going to focus on the part that convicted me :o)] My prayer for today is that this challenge will continue to resonate in my heart. My focus will be on God and what he is doing in my life and the lives around me. I still have a lot of little things to do today but I will purpose to not be absorbed in them, to look at those I come in contact with, to search for opportunities to do good works, so that they may point toward my father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

    Mar 25, 2010

    When Everything Seems Impossible

    Things happen in life that we really can't control. Many people assume that these things are signs that "x" is or is not supposed to happen. Sometimes it seems like just when you've climbed to the top of the mountain and are about to claim "King of the Mountain," a rock shifts and you go crashing down again. Timing can be an issue that is just unconquerable by human efforts. How often I have thought, "Ok, I've got my life all together, now would be a perfect time for _______." These days, that blank is usually filled with [a baby]. However, it has been filled with various other nouns in the past - a boyfriend, a husband, a car, an apartment, a house and on and on the list goes.

    The funny thing is that God doesn't usually listen to me when I tell him I'm ready.  He seems to have timing down to a science - He's got it wrapped around his little finger, if you will. I've tried and tried to figure it out but have only come to one conclusion. I will never understand. That doesn't mean that I'm sitting back just waiting for life to happen in front of me. It also doesn't mean that I am supposed try to make things happen on my own.  There is a fine line between taking steps in life that I believe God is asking me to take and being still, waiting for God to move. Sometimes I don't get the steps right or I wait too long or not long enough, but that doesn't mean that I've ruined everything. God is Sovereign and his will prevails.

    Right now my life feels like it is anything but "all together." Does that stop me from praying about our adoption and hoping in God's amazing power? Nope, not at all. In fact, I'm encouraged even more to "Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly (1 Corinthians 13:13)."  I believe that God knows what is best for me and that he will move mountains that stand in my way or enable me to climb them with His strength.

    "He knows us far better than we know ourselves...and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning." 
    Romans 8:27-29

    "You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, 
    his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus." 
     Philippians 4:19

    Mar 24, 2010

    The Best Lesson My Sister Taught Me

    Yesterday was a special day for my family. It was my sister Mandy's birthday. I was praying all day about what my entry was going to be today. This morning I decided to honor my sister with a story that she may not know. A little bit of warning - this might turn into a long post, but it is well worth it.

    My sister and I have had quite the relationship development. Being two years apart made for some interesting times growing up. For a while I was the younger annoying sister who just wanted to be as smart and cool as her older sister. Then, as we entered high school and began spending extended periods of time with just each other (driving to school 35 minutes each way) we started to bond as friends and not just sisters.  We still fought like sisters sometimes, but not as much as before.  Then came college.  It was weird being friends, but not seeing each other all the time.  I got to hear all about the fun pranks and games that happened in the dorm hallways. I remember being especially intrigued because Mandy had always been the rule follower.  She also talked a lot about the Christian Fellowship group that she was going to and the amazing people she was friends with. Mandy's college time was great for me because I got to go and visit. I'd go to some classes and do the "college thing" with my older sister. I loved it.

    It was on one of these visits that I believe my relationship with God changed forever. As I mentioned before, I grew up in a Christian home, went to Christian schools 3rd through 12th grade, went to youth group, etc., etc. When I was 10 years old I prayed to ask Christ to be my Savior and was baptized soon after that.  However, I really didn't understand the relationship part of knowing God. I knew about the learning about God and the don't break these rules aspects. However, it wasn't until I visited Mandy at college and went to one of the Christian Fellowship group meetings that I saw what it meant to have a relationship with God.  Here's what impacted me: 35-40 students, close to my age, getting together to worship God and be challenged to grow in their faith at a State University. They didn't do it because their parents were going or because it was required at school (as was my experience in high school) and it was not because it was the "cool" thing to do. Rather, it was because they (Mandy included) wanted to have a better relationship with God. That's when things started to make sense to me.  That's when what I was learning about God started to impact my heart and change my actions. God stopped being just a rule giver, but I then understood the reason they were necessary. I didn't have a magical, mystical conversion but I will remember the night I received the understanding of what it meant to have a personal relationship with God for the rest of my life.

    My big sister taught me by example that God is personal and that He wants a relationship with us.  On Monday I read a passage in Romans that illustrates this beautifully.  [Side Note: I feel like I should mention this again before I put the passage - I've been reading the Message bible for my own personal devotions. I know that it's not really a good idea to base all of your Bible study on this version since it is a paraphrase but it has made a huge impact on my devotional time and so it will most likely be the version quoted in my journal.]  I'm just going to write the whole passage since I think it is so beautiful. Romans 9: 25-28:

    "Hosea put it well. 'I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies, I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.  In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!" they're calling you "God's living children."
    Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:  If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled "chosen of God," They'd be numbers still, not names, salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn't count us, he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus."
    Even now, it makes my heart swell to know that God loves ME and has called ME by name and wants me to know him for who he is as well.  I praise HIM for bringing this understanding to my heart 11 years ago and for allowing my sister Mandy to have a part in it.  Our relationship is just as strong as ever and I believe that it is because we are both "God's living children" and are growing in Him together. Thank you Lord for my sister Mandy!

    Mar 22, 2010

    Thank you!

    I just wanted to quickly say "Thank You" for reading my journal so far. A few of you have sent comments  to me via email and Facebook (since I forgot to permit commenting when I was resetting the privacy settings).  I am so thankful for all your encouragement and I hope that we will continue to grow together. I'd like to officially extend a pen to you to write in my journal. I love hearing feedback and different perspectives on what I'm learning. So please, share your thoughts with me.

    Also, I wanted to share that I will mainly be updating and adding to the journal Tuesday through Friday but I'm making an effort to not just add fluff for fluff's sake.  If there hasn't been a post in a day or two know that I am praying about what to write and will post soon, you might consider praying for me as well. I hope you have a peaceful evening.

    Mar 19, 2010

    Public vs. Private

    This is a decision that I have been thinking about all week.  I've always been labeled "shy" not just by others, but I claim that label to myself often.  Many people who know me know that I tend to be pretty private about life.  I don't really open up about everything going on all at once. I don't generally walk up to someone I've never met and say, "Hey, I'm Livi and I'm convicted about loosing weight." This week, I started doing just that.

     I started blogging earlier this week and have been discussing what I believe to be deep-down personal internal struggles. To me, it feels like I'm having a conversation with people I may not know and telling them things that I have until now only really discussed with my husband or sister or other very close friend. Why the change? If I'm such an incredibly private person, why create a blog of all things? Well, once again it has to do with a nagging challenge that has been in my mind since earlier this winter.  

    This winter I read through the gospel books of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and I was touched by the fact that Jesus lived his life in the public eye.  Even the 40 days he spent alone in the desert, wrestling with Satan's temptations was discussed with his disciples and it is included in his Word for us to learn from. Reading about Jesus' public life, his ministry, got me thinking about how private I am about my life. Then, to give a louder voice to this nagging in my mind, I began working on the study guide for the Metamorpha book I briefly mentioned in an early post.  The first question was, "What word describes my spiritual life?" I sat and thought, and prayed. I didn't want to just put the canned answer that would make me look good "Fulfilling" or "Awesome." I wanted to describe it for real and asked myself to try to think about it from someone else looking at my spiritual life. And then it hit me, ouch! The one word that came to mind was "Private." That's like the opposite of what it should be!  Everything in my Christian upbringing was screaming in my head last night as I wrote that word "Private." I was quickly reminded of those little boxes I checked as I began my blog a few days ago.

    So, this morning when I woke up I knew what I had to do.  My first step of living a less "private" spiritual life was creating this blog (and then un-checking all those privacy boxes). This morning, I knew what my next step had to be and I've been dreading it all morning. My next step {pause for dramatic effect} is actually telling people that I've created a blog. I wish I'd been led to create a more happy-go-lucky blog that is full of pictures and happy thoughts that occur to me throughout my day. But no, I felt sincerely led to write about some of these internal struggles that have been on my mind and share in the lessons that God is teaching me and the growing pains that come from those lessons.

    It'll probably feel like you are reading my journal sometimes (hence the blog title) both to you and to me.  However, perhaps something that I'm learning will coincide with something you are experiencing. Or maybe you have something you've learned that will help with a circumstance in my life. Either way, I am one step further along the journey of sharing my spiritual life with you and that feels scary, terrifying, embarrassing but in a good way. :oD