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

Mar 18, 2010

Weighing Struggles

"I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but i don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time." Romans 7: 18-20 (MSG)

As I was reading this chapter in Romans this morning, I was totally convicted about my struggle with dieting and exercising.  I have read this verse so many times before but there have always been other sins and struggles that have come to the forefront of my mind.  This morning, I believe the Lord was talking directly to my heart. Why? Because, just last night I was telling Jeremy that part of the reason I don't give everything I have to get active and loose weight is because I know how sore I'm going to be the next few days (cough-weeks).

The interesting thing is that I've been having conversations with God about my focus over the past 11+ months.  I have been so focused on praying that he would work out our adoption, bring us our child and let us get out of this place of waiting.  I've grown uncomfortable with asking for prayer for this so often and not seeing anything else in my life that needs attention.  So, I've been praying that he would help me see other areas in my life that need him.  Areas that I've ignored because of this pressing "problem" (see previous post) of being childless.  

This morning, he saw fit to give me an area to work on.  So many times in my life I have determined to loose weight, thinking, "If I just stick to program ______  or work-out ___ many times a week then I will loose all the weight I want to loose." Then, a week...two day into the program/work-out schedule I give up. Recently, I don't think it would even be right to label this a struggle, since I've pretty much accepted where I am and given up hope that it will change.  That is, until I read Paul's struggle in Romans again.

At first glance, those verses seem utterly discouraging. I'm doomed to do what I don't want to do and not do what I want to do. It seems as though there is no escape. However, the answer comes later on in in verses 24-25, "I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different."

My problem has been that I've tried to loose this weight on my own, for my own reasons, focusing on myself and how I can make myself feel better about myself.  This morning I was encouraged to wage war on this part of myself. How am I going to do it? I have no idea right now. But I know that God is able to do this and I need to let him lead. He has conquered this sin and it is only by his strength that I will be able to have any success.
I'm thankful for a new struggle to lift up to God. I know that I will be sore, physically, mentally and spiritually. However, as God has told us, "My strength comes into its own in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) Pray with me that I will not focus on my own efforts, but be obedient and trust God's plan for my life and health.

Mar 17, 2010

Things People Say

This is a train of thought that has been on my mind, churning about for some time now. There are things people say to couples who do not have children that, I believe with my heart, they think are encouraging.  To tell you the truth, I'm probably only speaking for myself here, but these comments are not encouraging and in all honesty feel more like salt in a wound.

Thankfully, I can't think of any specific examples (I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm calling them out specifically), but the gist of every such comment is...
You're so lucky, you should be thankful for all the time that you have now with your husband all alone. If you had kids your life would be more complicated and you wouldn't be able to do the things you can do now. You should be glad that you don't have kids.
Hearing these comments often arises a sarcastic response in my head, but I nod, smile and feebly agree. The truth is that I really do want to have children - it just hasn't happened for us yet. So these comments, although meant to make us feel better about not having children, often make us very cognizant of the absence of our child. 

Often my internal sarcasm points to the fault in the speaker, rather than to the sinful discontent in the hearer {me}.  In recent months, I have been convicted and challenged to consider the fact that God has, in fact, given me the grace I need to be joyful and grateful in this time of being childless. A verse that has just made an impact in my life again is Philippians 4:11b-13, quoting from the Message (since that is my devotional Bible):
"I've learned now how to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.  I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."
This verse has always been special to me, but recently I heard a Sunday School message that accentuated what I had already liked about the verse.  It was pointed out that often we just think of the positive side of what Paul is saying. However, half of what Paul talks about is considered suffering - having little, being hungry, empty hands. God gives us the grace we need in whatever circumstances he has placed us in.  Therefore, God has given me the grace I need to not know my child right now. For me, that was a light bulb being switched on in my head.  I'm still exploring this space that I didn't know about before.

When the time comes,  I know that he will give me the grace I need to get up multiple times during the night, multiple nights in a row and still make quality decisions even though I proably won't be able to string two words together in a sentance after a while.  I love how the Message states verse 13: Whatever I have [or don't have], wherever I am [or am not], I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. It is beautiful for me to think of it this way, and I have such an intense desire to abide with the One who made me who I am.

Blogging is a funny thing, I planned to have one train of thought but in the midst of thinking through it I was reminded of this recent conviction and I have arrived at a different ending.  Things people say may often remind me painfully of what I do not have. However, now I know that I do need to be thankful - whatever my circumstances because God has placed me here and given me everything I need to do his work while I'm here.

Dear Diary,

UPDATE: I have decided to make this blog {gulp} PUBLIC. So, while some of what is below is now obsolete, a good bit of it serves as an introduction.

I'm sure that I'll feel more comfortable about this whole blogging thing after a while. However, right now it feels sort of like I'm exposing my self to the world. Although, I am pretty sure I checked all the right boxes so that only certain people (Jeremy) are able to read this for now.  I've been wanting to create a diary for a while now, but I loose interest in paper diaries and putting a password protected file on your computer just makes everyone suspicious.

Here are things that are on my plate as I sit and type:
 - I am a stay-at-home wife with a part-time job as a marketing/graphic design "guru" for Comprehensive Injury Prevention Solutions, Inc.  the business that my husband is a part-owner (vice president). The first couple of years we said that with a snicker because there were only 3 people in the company. However, as of today they are 3-full-timers-and-6-part-timers strong.  Praise God!

 - I have been an approved, waiting adoptive mother for just shy of a year (11 months at the end of this month). I'm pretty sure that most of my posts will be about this phase of my life.

 - A couple women from church and a couple friends from outside of church and I are just starting a Bible study called Metamorpha by Kyle Strobel. The study guide for this book encourages its readers to blog about their experience throughout the book. I'm not sure I want to do this publicly yet, but I may open this blog up later on.

 - Jer & I have agreed to be leaders in training for a marriage course called Love & Respect.  We have never taken this marriage course before, and have only watched the first two sessions on our own.  I'd say we have a great marriage, but I've recently been challenged with the thought that every marriage needs work all the time. It's true, I definitely see ill-effects from the two of us "taking it easy" when it comes to our marriage relationship.  We don't communicate as much or as deeply as we used to. In recent months, we have been working on this and the marriage course has already had some positive effects on our interactions. More on that later too I'm sure.

Well, that's not everything that's going on but is most of what captures my attention these days.  I hope that the process of typing out my thoughts will be therapeutic and will help me sift through some of what is going on in my head.

Thanks to Jeremy for encouraging me to start a blog and for being the only one besides myself that is able to read it. I love you!