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Everything I Know about...
  • Everything I know about 15 minutes

    I find myself with little 15-20 minute increments of time. I give myself a little longer than I used to in order to get out the door on time, but it usually means either right before or right after I've gotten myself and my Little One all ready to go, I have a little time to spare.

    I wish I could be pious and say that I've mastered using those 15 minutes, but honestly just today I found myself with 3 of these chunks of time and I began to feel this nagging sense that I ought to make something of the time. It wasn't guilt as much as the feeling that I'm not being a good steward of my main resource right now, which just so happens to be these little pockets of time.

    Most often I whip out my phone and check out what you all might be doing on Facebook or Instagram today. Or I loiter in my own home, wandering from room to room making a mental checklist of what I COULD be doing "when I have the time."

    -I could pick up my bedroom [how do I always have a pile of something somewhere?]
    -I could load/unload the dishwasher. 
    -I could go through Marylane's clothes AGAIN, because who KNEW a little baby could grow out of and into so many darling clothes so freaking fast?!
    -I could clean off the dining room table or the kitchen counter, because heaven KNOWS how long those piles have been sitting there.
    -I could read a few pages in the latest book I've picked up.
    -I could spend time with God.
    -I could play the piano.
    -I could "Miracle-Gro" my wilting plants.
    -I could decide what to make for dinner.
    -I could write a note to someone.

    I could do any number of things that would keep me from doing nothing at all with my time, but I mostly choose to waste the precious resource I have. Let me tell you, it's easy for me to justify doing nothing with that time: I'm tired, I just want a little break, it's only a few minutes anyway...

    But I don't want to get used to wasting little bits of time, because before I know it, I'll be wasting big bits of time. For me, it comes down to being faithful with little and perhaps later on having the privilege and opportunity to be faithful with much.

    What resource do you most have at your disposal? How do you choose to spend it?

  • Everything I Know about Changing Identities

    Single, Married. Without kids, With kids. Meloncholy, Sanguin. Employed, Unemployed. Southern, Midwestern. Dog hater, Dog lover. Christian. Daughter. Niece. Aunt. Neighbor. Friend. Coworker. Writer. Crochet-er. Musician. Reader. Introvert. Cook. 

    Written on my business card of life could be 100 descriptions of who it is that I am and what it is that I do. I'm kind of all over the place. Who I was at one point in life no longer describes who I am now. In fact, it looks the direct opposite in many instances. The time I spent in the situation before this one shapes the decisions I make now, even though my circumstances are completely different. 

    I am married, yes, but much of the time I find myself in scenarios thinking 70% as a single person. I could say this about everyone one of the other "befores and afters" as well. I haven't fully come out of or into my own with these new life situations. 

    When I look up in Webster for the definition of "Identity" this is one of the definitions I am given: "the distinguishing character or personality of an individual."

    As I examine what "distinguishes" me I see a compilation of experiences and circumstances that make up who I am. My mind and heart haven't seemed to caught up with all the experiences as of yet. 

    I'm still working on piecing everything together for myself. I have a feeling I might not be alone in working through these seemingly opposite parts of myself that all make up who I am. What parts make up who you are that you feel compete with one another?

    When I look at all of these experiences who make up the whole of who I am I can flounder in the question marks they create. Or I have another option.  I can choose to make it much more simpler. I am Gisele. I'm a mix of good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, who I've been and who it is I'm becoming.  This will be the whole of life: taking one experience after another and building upon it until on my deathbed I can come close to naming who it is I have become. 

    In the meantime, I have a lot of becoming still to become. So I might as well be about the business of becoming her with intentionality.

  • Everything I Know About Ignorance

    I went on a date with a guy many years ago and as we were having a lively conversation I started to realize we weren't exactly on the same page with everything. This fact didn't bother me, except that my date kept using "we" statements about things he was saying. I felt like it was only fair to let him know that I didn't agree with everything he was saying so I told him, "You know, I think I might be more conservative than you think I am." He looked at me, paused, and then said, "BUT YOU READ." Needless to say, we didn't go on another date. I frequently laugh about the fact that according to him I couldn't disagree with him AND also be educated. It seems though he's not the only one who thinks such things.

    I've noticed in a lot of controversial areas people are quick to say, "If you disagree with me you must be ignorant." And all sides of all arguments make that same claim. Why do we do this to each other? Can't we intelligently disagree? If you and I don't hold the same opinions why does it automatically mean that one of us must be ignorant? 

    If someone is legitimately concerned about me or you being ignorant, wouldn't the nicer option be to patiently educate the other side? The problem is, we are often already educated and our opinions have developed through study or experiences. We take our disagreements as biting and condescending opportunities to say the other side is ignorant. We offer a degrading kind of pity by saying someone who disagrees with us must not be as educated as we are. Why do we all have to be "ignorant"? Why can't we just disagree?

  • Everything I know about not knowing anything

    I was reading about the financial troubles of Greece this morning. Really, I reading about this fellow's idea of how to help solve it and I was thinking, "I wonder what the repercussions would be of this." I thought I'd hear some smart people's perspectives on why it might or might not make a difference. 

    And then I realized that nobody knows how anything will turn out. We never actually do. We can make educated guesses about what the fallout or the windfall might be, we can even study historically what has happened, but the hard truth is, we don't actually know.

    I want the assurance that there's research I can do to tell me the effects of what I do before I do it. I try to plan for all possible scenarios. I have well thought-out ideas of best and worst case scenarios, but ultimately, I'm not in charge of anything. I don't manage the outcomes.

    I read a Mother Teresa quote this morning, "Give Jesus a free hand and let Him use you without consulting you."

    It's why we don't know how things will play out. We are often used without our permission. God's enacting a plan that we get to be a part of and we can to choose one of two responses:

    Response 1: Kick and Scream when our charts, spreadsheets, plans and dreams don't come about how we predict or hope. Wilt under the immense disappointment that our plan didn't pan out. Blame those around us, or be crushed by our failures.

    Response 2: Open our eyes to what else God might be up to. Take a second to feel our disappointment and then surrender to our Great God who chooses to use us without consulting us. He's up to something we might just not understand the fullness of.

    And the beautiful truth is, His use of us is because His great love for us. We don't deserve to be part of what He is accomplishing, but because He values us, He pushes us to greater things. We get to be in on His plan.

  • Everything I Know about Juicing

    Jason sat me down one evening after work, and asked me to watch a documentary with him. It's called Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead. It's about a man with a rare disease, who was overweight and wanted to change his life before he lost it. He chose to do it through juicing.

    We finished the documentary and high on the man's life change, Jason asked me if I wanted to juice with him for a week. I accepted the challenge. I had learned a lot about the benefits of doing a juice fast and was ready to put my learnings into practice.

    A few weeks later, we excitedly went on a massive Costco shopping trip, buying more fruits and veggies than you can imagine, and ran home to juice enough to last us a couple days. We were wide-eyed and eager.

    Well, the juice fast is maybe the worst idea we've ever had. We're considering listing the juicer on Craigslist and getting it out of our house. We juiced Thursday night so we'd have enough juice for a couple of days, and just thinking about the gross-ness we made is making my gag reflex work. 

    We made 3 juices:
    Juice 1: blueberries, spinach, apples, cucumber, cranberry [this was the best of them, but still not good]
    Juice 2: Spinach, apples, cucumber, celery, lemon, orange [it's called the green machine, or to me, the gag machine]
    Juice 3: spinach, apples, cucumber, celery, lemon, carrots, tomato [This was the WORST. Don't ever make this. It's maybe the worst thing I've ever tasted or smelled.]

    After day 1 we mistakenly thought wouldn't have been so bad, if there hadn't been as much pulp in the juice. So we started straining out the pulp, but it didn't help as much as we were hoping.

    We were strong through Friday and then Friday night right before bed I started puking up everything I'd drank. It was as disgusting coming up as it was going down. Saturday we were lethargic all morning. We finally rolled out of bed a little after 9 and cleaned our house. We went tubing with Jason's brother and nephews, which was SUPER fun, but after 2 hours of activity, we were dead to the world. We'd both been nursing headaches for days to add to our lethargy. We decided that we'd make use of our fruits and vegetables in a different way and adjusted our menu to juice for breakfast and lunch and to keep it simple. Straight up Orange juice, apple/kiwi juice, and carrot juice and eating fruits and veggies for supper. This is MUCH more manageable. We were both much happier with this arrangement. Much more doable. We kept this up the remainder of the week.

    All in all, Jason lost 7 pounds and I lost 5. It's not what we set out to do with the juicing, but we felt much better. The long of the short of it is, I don't recommend juicing, truly. I think a clean eating challenge, or a Daniel Fast is probably better than a week of juicing. Even just a water fast would be easier than choking down that nasty juice. I love fruits and veggies, but not that way. Ew. 

    So there you have it. As interesting as it sounds, I don't recommend it. We had much better luck with juicing for two meals and eating healthy for the third. And it helped us develop a plan that we can stick with for the long haul. We won't be juicing, but we won't be eating starchy lunches anymore either.

    We have found the wonder of freshly squeezed orange juice, though. That and the carrot juice are especially delicious! Just don't mix them with anything :) 

  • Everything I know about Earning My Keep

    It's 7:15 AM. Jason and I are making a habit of waking up with each other so we have a few moments before our days begin that we can spend with each other. A couple mornings I've gone back to bed, but most days I've stayed up and worked on the house, chatted with friends, and gotten things on my list crossed off. When I started getting settled 13 days ago, the length of the list made me think I had enough to do to fill a couple months. But starting on Monday I started recounting to Jason these feelings of not "earning my keep."

    Settling has come a lot easier than I had thought it might. Nearly all the boxes are unpacked and put away. I have walls of pictures hung, with just a few more to go. With Social Security Card, Driver's License and Car Registration all checked off, guilt is starting to settle in. 

    How am I earning my keep? I feel the need to justify the moments of my days to ensure I've done enough to account for the hours. I've even started selling stuff on eBay to try to earn a few bucks. This morning Jason and I were spending time with each other and the focus of our time together was about relishing the presence of God. We talked about being still before God.

    God tells us, "Be still and know that I am God." I know this is true, but it is difficult in a culture that thrives on production to believe that God could be ok with me regardless of what I'm earning. But He functions on a different pay scale. It's one that is filled up with time with Him, sincere prayers, and love for Him and others. I don't want to receive grace like this. I want to have to earn it, but I get the distinct sense that in these weeks it takes to find a job in Minnesota, that He has different work for me. Work that is centered on learning to trust Him and rest in whatever His good plan is. 

    To date He's proven that He has a masterful timeline and beautiful plans for us. I'm praying my heart will soak in this truth and take full advantage of the gift of stress-free and uninterrupted days. I'm working on trusting that He is orchestrating a job that will be fullfilling and the provision that He wants to give to us. And it will have nothing to do with me needing to "earn my keep."

  • Everything I know about Control

    There are three words that have been hard for me to work into my vocabulary. But they seem to be the most spoken words I have at the moment.

    I Don't Know.

    For work, I'm used to knowing just what I'm going to do next, how to pursue the next thing, and upholding the illusion of control so everyone has confidence that what is about to happen next has been 100% thought through. And if I don't know the answers, I have someone else to defer the decision-making to, who can tell me how we're moving forward.

    This whole transition thing has completely thrown me. I have a lot of vague answers. I know I'm getting married in October and the moving the following week, but I don't know what I'm going to do for work. I don't know what kind of church we will find. I don't know how I'll plug into the community. I don't know anything beyond the moving truck meeting us in Maple Grove on the other side of our honeymoon. I am completely out of control of what will happen next.

    Have you had moments like these, where it feels like all you can do is release whatever is next because you simply don't know?

    I've been working on writing a Bible Study detailing stories from the lives of John the Baptist and Elijah. As I began the study I looked at the life of Zacharias, John the Baptist's dad. He was a man of God, worked in the Temple and God visited him there one week while he was on duty. God told him he was going to have a child after all his wife's years of barrenness. He didn't believe God. He couldn't accept that his illusion of control was breaking down and God was breaking in. But that's precisely what God did. Where Zacharias believed he was in complete control before, God entered into his storyline and reworked Zacharias' and Elizabeth's lives. What they believe to be true, in one instant, was no longer true for them.

    This is what they thought they knew: [Luke 1]

    -They were a couple with no children.

    -They were elderly and almost finished with what God had for them in their lives.

    -They knew their schedule, when Zacharias would be needed in the Temple, and exactly what the work would look like while he was there.

    This is what God showed them:

    -God can perform whatever miracles He would like to in our lives.

    -We're not finished with the work of God until He tells us we are, no matter what stage we're in.

    -When we're working for God, our schedule is His, not ours. He gets to do whatever He wants to in order to advance His work. And it often won't look how we imagine it will.

    What I know about control is that I don't have it. I never did. God is about His business, and I've chosen to join Him in it. He does beautiful, miraculous, confusing, and wonderful things as I seek Him. I'm grateful for every step that I haven't understood. I'm certain moving forward there will continue to be a lot of "I don't knows" but I think I'm understanding for the first time that there is freedom in following. And I cannot wait to see what will come of all that I don't know.

  • Month 12: Writing and Goodness.

    Month 12: Writing
    Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness 
    The Goal: Write a chapter of my book. Write something everyday. Focus on writing, and begin one of my life goals.
    The Rules: Everday take 20 minutes to write.
    The Outcome: I didn't end up writing a chapter of my book, BUT I did spend a lot of time writing and editing. I curated a Lenten booklet during this month as well.

    We’ve reached my last month in my year of intentionality.

    What a journey this has been, spending time remembering disciplines. The last month of my intentional journey led me to write. It ultimately led me to start this blog and pursue some writing avenues I hadn’t explored before. 

    I love writing, and it’s an important part of my life, so through December 2012 I worked to spend more time than usual writing. This month's experience combined with Months Three and Eleven have become staples in my life every day. I’ve been working on a couple different writing projects and I’ve learned to value and protect my mornings spent writing. It is time I spend studying God’s word, I’ve started work on a book about John the Baptist and Elijah, and I have come to protect quiet moments spent thinking deeply about things that matter to me. Writing has become the primary way of spending time with God.

    Here is everything I know about writing.

    1. I can never find just the right words, and a piece is never ready to be read by others. BUT the act of humility and vulnerability in posting what I’m learning keeps me digging more deeply for what I believe.

    2. Sometimes I say just what I want to say and I feel satisfied with what I’ve written. And sometimes no matter how hard I try, I couldn’t write what I mean if heaven and earth were at stake.

    3. Writing rules like not using adverbs, limiting lists, not using the word “that,” not using all caps, and other similar rules are a little tricky. Sometimes it’s much nice to write without thinking about the rules.

    4. It makes me feel like a million bucks when my mom [well anyone really, but especially my mom] references something I’ve written.

    5. For a girl who doesn’t always have something to say out loud, writing words is the perfect way to finally wrap my mind around what I meant in the first place.

    6. I’m not a comedian in my writing, and I’m ok with that. I’m not a comedian in conversation either, so I’m ok with being serious both places.

    7. I wish I could find a way to enjoy writing emails as much as I enjoy writing elsewhere.

    8. Now that writing has become a daily part of my life, I have learned how valuable it is when people share with me what they’ve written. I feel really honored to get to read what others will offer.

    9. Writing a comment on someone else’s blog creates as much anxiety as writing a full post.

    10. I love handwriting letters. I also love receiving handwritten letters.

    11. I want to take a caligraphy class.

    12. Writing on a typewriter is just more fun every single time.

    13. I’m so so thankful for YOU who read my little musings and encourage my love. 

    Thanks for sticking with me through my Year of Intentionality. Starting next Wednesday, I'll be posting everyday through Lent. Some friends from church were generous enough to offer their thoughts on the Fruit of the Spirit. We may be done with the Year of Intentionality, but we're not finished with the Fruit of the Spirit quite yet. We'll stick with that theme for 40 more days. 

  • Everything I Know about Solitude

    Being an introvert, I am a big fan of solitude. Solitude is how I regain energy after a long day at work, hanging out in groups, or tackling something challenging. To me, solitude is linked to refueling. There can be a lot of time spent alone that does not automatically lead to feeling more alive. There is drawn a fine line in my search for solitude, between selfishness and refueling. For me the line sometimes moves a little too far one way.

    My singleness has only exacerbated this by allowing me an extreme amount of time to refuel in quiet aloneness when I’m not intentional about stepping outside of myself. One time my niece asked me very sweetly if I was “alonely” when she found out that for a week my roommate was out of town and I was spending evenings in an empty house by myself. The truth was, I wasn’t “alonely” at all. I was content. I was also being a little selfish. My singleness provides a wonderful gift of solitude, but also time that would allow me to serve in ways I often neglect. 

    In my times of solitude, I have to monitor myself against time wasters: checking my phone or watching a crime show. During solitude, it’s most refueling if I am not merely being alone but I am also doing something that is life-giving:

    -cleaning the house-making it peaceful
    -playing my piano
    -reading
    -writing
    -making up a new recipe
    -taking a walk

    Mindlessness doesn’t always equal refueling. If there isn’t some sort of intentionality combined with it, I might run the risk of just being lazy. It's healthy to spend a couple nights with myself. It's dangerous to spend every night alone.

    Solitude carries power:

    Benefits Cautions

    Refueling and Rest
    Caters to creativity
    Introspection
    Fuels Imagination
    Space for dreaming
    Independence
    Understanding of the infinite                                    

    Selfishness
    Self-pity
    Isolation
    Loneliness
    Dark Thoughts
    Lack of outside perspective

    As with everything in life, solitude requires moderation. It’s blissful when put in practiced with intentionality, and dangerous when taken too far. 

  • Everything I know about Joy

    I’ve heard people all my life talk about the difference between happiness and joy. I believe it. I have no argument about how Joy is a choice and happiness is circumstantial. I can’t help but feel, though, that there’s something more to the equation still. It’s not just a matter of choosing or that it’s a feeling versus a decision.

    I think wrapped up with joy is also delight. The unexpected overflow of a life filled with goodness, regardless of knowing the ending of the story. So for my month of playing the piano everyday and thinking about joy, I found the sheer delight in doing something I loved. It’s not FOR anyone else. My piano playing is rather pathetic, so I wasn’t playing to practice for anything specific or to impress any crowds; I was playing merely for the joy and delight of it.  It had nothing to do with anything going on anywhere else in my life, it was simply 30 minutes every single day where I chose to find joy and delight in something that cost and earned me nothing.

    What I found in those moments of delight, with my expectations set at nothing, I gained a whole host of joy at working at something just to work at it, and for no other purpose. 

    It reminded me that some things are kept sacred by reserving them merely for the delight of God. Not all things need to be turned into an opportunity to make money or to be presented to someone else. Some things are meant to be reserved for mutual delight between me and God. That's what my piano playing is for me. I hit too many wrong notes for it to be impressive to anyone else, but in my joy of plucking out badly played songs, I also find God's joy.

    What do you work at, merely for the joy of working at it? How have you turned something into work that was meant merely for joy?

  • Everything I know about Boundaries

    There's a lot I've learned about boundaries from having poor ones. There's also a lot I've learned about them by watching other people. It's rare that I know anything about boundaries by having the gumption to stick to them myself. So all of this is a culmination of failures and other people's advice. It's always the best kind of learning anyway. Maybe not the most comfortable kind, but definitely the kind learned at the deepest level. 

    Here are a few things I know:

    1. Boundaries are uncomfortable at first. Both for ourselves when we put them in place, and for those around us who aren't used to us saying no.

    2. Boundaries are essential if we are to be able to prioritize anything in our lives. We have to protect those things by saying yes to what will help us grow and nurture the most important aspects of our lives, and no to things that will distract.

    3. Boundaries prohibit people pleasing. We can't make everyone else happy all the time and still prioritize what is most important to ourselves.

    4. Boundaries are hard to respect. If we don't respect and uphold our boundaries, no one else will. No one will do the work for us. They'll fight against them, in fact. It can feel at times easier to give in on them than to stick with them, but we have to respect and hold to our own boundaries. And we have to expect that others may not understand or respect them but believe that it's worth it to respect them for ourselves. 

    5. Boundaries may cause guilt. This is a hard one for me. I feel so terrible at protecting my hedges because it means inconvenience to others at times. I have to expect the guilt and decide before I feel it that just because I feel guilt, doesn't mean my boundary isn't valid.

    6. Boundaries at times need to be flexible. But be careful with this. sometimes if we flex too much we give in all together. They need to be stretchy, not altogether moveable. Sometimes the best and most unexpected blessings come when we loosen up on our boundaries a bit, and leave room for the miraculous. 

    7. Boundaries are lifegiving. With all the hard stuff associated with boundaries, it's important to remember the times good boundaries were put in place and what the positive outcome was. When we have good boundaries we become who it is God has created us to be. We work toward the goal of becoming Christlike rather than people pleasing, creating idols of our jobs and family, or caving in to external pressures. 

    What do you know about boundaries that I could learn from?

    [This picture was taken when my whole family of 17 people were NOT respecting this person's boundary. Sometimes they must be broken. ;) ]

  • Month 9: Boundaries

    boundary wall

    [You can catch up on the other months here]

    Month 9: Boundaries
    Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
    The Goal: Begin putting boundaries in place
    The Rules: **Say no to 1 thing every week. Work 45 hours a week. Structure my time outside of work. Begin being disciplined again, instead of allowing the chaos of others to influence my own internal peace.
    The Outcome: I did pretty good! I was happier at work, and have a different perspective. I'm battling a little guilt associated with it, but I'm enjoying the new boundaries.

    One year and 4 months later as I read through this, I have to admit feeling a lot of shame. In a lot of ways the good boundaries I put in place, I have compromised again. It feels a bit like divine intervention that this is what I've come to write about at this point in time, as it's something I'm struggling with all over again. I also find it interesting that the outcome of sticking with my boundaries was guilt inducing, BUT now that I've not stuck with them, I'm also feeling guilt and shame. 

    Isn't that the way it goes? I've noticed consistently through my experiences and really ANY time I set my mind on doing something, that I face opposition. It might be me self-sabatoging, and it might also be the enemy working against me to keep me from becoming who I want to become. 

    I told a friend of mine recently that sometimes sticking to boundaries can be as exhausting as just breaking them. It looks like this time I have broken down, and instead of fighting to stick with them, I've caved under the pressure.

    I'm sure this is a topic I'm going to have a bit more to say about, but for now, I'm going to sit with the reminder that sticking to boundaries leads to greater peace. It might be hairy getting into the rhythm of boundaries, but it is far hairier working my heart out of the frenzy of a chaotic life.

    And I'm hoping spending some time reflecting on the things I've learned in the past that it will begin to shape my present.

    Boundaries and Peace

    Everything I know about boundaries

    [Photo]

  • Thanksgiving Thankfulness Top 10

    When my family all gets together I always write a top 10 list for us. My mom always makes us a book of pictures after our times together and includes the top 10 lists, so we have them forever. [They're laminated, of course.]

    I spent the last week with my family in South Dakota. I'm sharing my top 10 list with you as well! 

    1. My nieces and nephews didn't know I was coming, so getting to surprise them by being there. I've never been fought over quite like they did while I was there, and it made me feel so loved :)

    2. Going ice skating on the farm.

    3. My first hunting excursion with Wes. We didn't get anything, but that was ok. 

    4. Sawyer was learning the books of the Bible and in his version it went something like this: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Letters...

    5. Watching the Cat Stampede. I've never seen anything quite like it. [Video Below]

    6. My sister made me my most favorite jello salad. As ridiculous as it sounds, it is exactly that delicious. She is too good to me.

    7. Getting to see sunrises and sunsets everyday. This doesn't happen in Atlanta.

    8. All of my neices and nephews wanted to watch a video with Papa and Nana on the iPad so they all circled up around them. It was a pretty awesome impromptu photo op. [Picture above.]

    9. My parents going to great lengths making sure I got to see everyone I wanted to see, and didn't miss anything.

    10. Tea parties with my neices.

    Honorable Mentions:

    -Learning that as much as my brother's kids like baked beans, we probably don't want to be around them when they've eaten them.

    -Hudson's poems

    -Teaching Faith a song on the piano.

    -Coffee with a good friend.

    -Runza with my brother and Don & Millie's with my aunt and uncle.

    -Long walks.

    -Wrestling matches in the living room.

    -Being woken up in creative ways.

    -Gingerbread house building

    And lots lots more. 

    ................................................................................................................................................................

     

  • From Tickets to Presents and Presence

    Today seeing the good was kind of off to a rocky start. I was on my way to work and I got a ticket. I was JUST about to have a ticket roll off and my insurance given a break, when to the week 3 years later I got ANOTHER TICKET.

    It could have been worse. He COULD have given me two tickets, one for turning left where I wasn't supposed to before 9 [I hate rules like these, that only apply SOMETIMES and not others] and the other for not making a complete stop at a stop sign [which I'm pretty sure I DID stop at]. BUT he only gave me a warning for the stop sign [I think because he knew I stopped too.] 

    I was so mad. Mad at myself, because it was my own fault for violating traffic laws. Mad at him for not having anything better to do than to give tickets in places where the law is iffy enough that people violate it on a regular basis, and mad at Monday for starting out this way. 

    Something I've been struck with in naming the good that I see, is that I have struggled more this month to see good than I have in a long time. Why is it that when we commit to do the right thing we oppose ourselves at every turn?

    I have a long way to go. 

    But there WAS good today! I saw a friend who I haven't seen in a couple months. My friend left earrings I'd been drueling over on my desk. And another friend gave me a shirt and a beanie that remind me that I'm so worth loving. And NOW I'm getting ready to meet a friend for coffee and then embark on a surprise. Sheesh for a day that started out rocky, it sure has gotten better! 

  • Old Habits Die Hard

    You know the phrase Old Habits Die Hard? I was sitting here after a really full day [weekend, week, month], feeling familiar feelings that I've tried hard to overcome, and that phrase kept echoing in my mind. 

    And then I was convicted that I might call them "habits" to dampen the blow, but when I get to the bottom of what it really is, my cheeks redden with the truth. 

    It's sin. 

    These old feelings, my bad interactions, how I handle stress, they're all nagging sins that need transforming. 

    And the thing is, I thought they were being transformed and then here I sit in the same shame I've sat in before. Still struggling. Still failing.

    The bad news is, as my dad always told me, my sin never affects just me. Don't you just HATE that?? I think the only person damaged by my bad attitude, over committments, and lack of boundaries is myself only to look back to see a wake of offended people in my whirlwind of chaos I call life. 

    Yuck. 

    But there's good news too. The good news is that I believe in the transformational power of God in my life. I believe He can  and is transforming these parts of me that cause such shame. These same old bad habits that creep up just as I think I've overcome them. He is greater than my heart and knows all things. He knows I'll need to sheepishly admit my sin to friends and family who I've hurt. He knows I need to sheepishly admit my sin to Him too. And He knows that even though I'm undeserving, He'll graciously forgive. He's already forgiven. He's still transforming even though I struggle with the same old stuff.

    Man oh man, that's hard to accept. It's also the only there there is to do. He's merciful enough to offer it. I have to be humble enough to receive it.

    And chances are, acknowledging the sin, apologizing for it, and receiving God's mercy are all part of the process of being transformed. 

  • Hateful Emails and Shakey Face

    Hateful Emails: I get them occasionally. I do communications and customer service for work. It means that hate mail comes with the territory. In the last couple weeks for whatever reason, there have been a few hateful people who feel that being unkind is their best option. I don't even KNOW these people and somehow they think if they're mean they'll get a better response than being kind. I work hard to have the same response regardless of niceness or meanness, but today I want to chuck these people out the window. Straight. Out. The. Window. My Grandad used to say, "The same pants you got mad in, you might as well get glad in." and I have wished multiple times that it would be appropriate to quote him.

    Shakey Face: It's so stupid. You shake your face back and forth as fast as you can and take a picture. Your lips are flying everywhere, cheeks are gigantic, eyes are closed and it's miraculous. I made my neice send me a video of her doing the shakey face. I'll spare her embarrassment, because if I posted it she would never forgive me, but I've watched it approximately 30[0] times. [She might hate me for the picture already but she's just so cute I can't help it.] I can't stop laughing every time I watch it. As an added bonus the shirt she's wearing in her shakey face video says, "Think Happy Thoughts." 

    Her shakey face is helping me deal with hateful emails and to think happy thoughts. I think I'll watch it again.

  • Thanksgiving Dinner a Little Early

    Yesterday we had Thanksgiving meal for our team at work. I work with refugees who have fled their countries because of conflict. They create products out of old billboards and coffee sacks. The 7 women working in the bag shop are mentored by 7 women who have a passion for helping them learn English, and just being good friends to them. So their mentors came for Thanksgiving too, along with some of our board members. It was a full house with familiar smells, laughter, pie, and eating way too much.

    We all sat at one very long table. Jeff explained Thanksgiving to our refugee friends and then in typical American Thanksgiving fashion, we all gave thanks. All of us, in our bumbling words trying to make sense of what our hearts were overflowing with went one by one around the table to share the good we have been given.

    The common thread? We were all thankful for each other. We are thankful for friends, for community that feels like family, and for a good work being completed. We were all thankful that the people we were sitting beside are the exact people who we want to be sharing this year of learning alongside. For some of our refugee friends this was the first Thanksgiving Dinner experience, but it's definitely not their first rodeo at teaching me what gratitude looks like. I'm thankful to see the world through their eyes; with full and grateful and open hearts. 

  • 2 Takeaways.

    My sister and I just finished reading a book by Tim Keller called "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering." It's one of the best books either of us have read in a long time. I'm not going to do a book report, though. I'm just going to tell you my 2 takeaways.

    1. "He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows." -Tim Keller 

    Keller probably repeated the quote in half of the chapters of the book, but we didn't mind. It was so powerful, we loved having the reminder. When hard times come, all we know to ask for is that God would take it away. But God, in His goodness and wisdom, gives us what we would have asked for if we had His knowledge. We have our miniscule ant-in-the-grass perspective, meanwhile God knows who we will become at the end. He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows.

    2. Thinking. 

    In the midst of pain we might want to turn off our brains along with anything that might make the pain more accute, but that is precisely the time to use our brains. Those are the times we need to tell ourselves the truth about God and ourselves. He is a strong tower. We need to remind ourselves to hope in Him, that even though we feel abandoned, He is present. In the words of the Psalmist, "Why so downcast, Oh my soul? Put your hope in God." He told himself the truth even as he was having difficulty believing it. It's also the time to dig deeply into His Word. Night time inspirational devotionals won't cut it. We need to DIG. We won't be satisfied with less. We'll only be satisfied when we know Him deeply.

    Both of these things change our prayers. Instead of praying for God to stop the work He's doing, we can invite Him into the pain. He's been there before. He's not afraid to sit with us in it now.

  • Stating the Obvious

    This morning in church we sang a song that reminded me of something really obvious. Seeing the good prepares my heart for God. I know we KNOW that this is what follows, but it's easy for me to forget.

    There's a domino effect with gratitude.
    First, my eyes see the good. [The first domino falls.]
    Then my heart begins to soften. [There goes dominoes 2 and 3.]
    I have new clarity about life's circumstances. [Down goes 4-10.]
    I allow room for God to be at work transforming my heart and mind. [I hear more dominoes clattering behind me.]

    God wants to have the space to move in us. He wants us to open our hearts to His transformational power, so like the dominoes falling, grace by grace, we are becoming more of a reflection of Him.

    One way we make space for Him is by acknowledging His good gifts. But acknowledgement is only the first step. As we continue seeing the good, we continue moving forward.
    -We give the good back to Him by giving to others.
    -We commit to loving Him more than loving the good we have newly acknowledged.
    -We willingly and openly allow Him to transform our hearts. 

    We can't just stop with gratitude. Our hearts won't let us! When we have eyes to see the good, our hearts are overwhelmed with the Goodness of God and we are changed. Next thing we know, we can look back and see the whole line of dominoes having followed our transformed hearts.

  • Choosing my Saturday

    It's Saturday morning, I'm sitting in my favorite chair with my favorite mug, drinking mediocre tasting coffee, and thinking about what I'm going to do with my day. This is a good moment, before any decisions are made and all the options are on the table before me. Will I clean out the fridge and finally tend to our terrible looking floors or will I make good on a couple writing commitments that I've made?

    Sometimes it's difficult choosing priorities when all I want is a day without any. But who lives a priority-less life, I'd like to know? And since when have I began believing that I'm deserving of it? Even when we're choosing rest, we are choosing a priority. The floors don't just get clean, the writing isn't just magically written, and I don't shut my brain down on accident. All of these things require intentionality. We CHOOSE the stuff that is important to us. 

    Today I am choosing to work on some things so tomorrow I can choose to rest. 

  • A Week's Worth of Good

    I love Ann Voskamp's reminders to find good in the little things. It's not always easy to remember to do, but surprisingly easy to find good. These are a few things that helped me see good this week. They're my version of brown paper packages wrapped up with string.

    -It's 39 days until Christmas
    -It finally got cold outside.
    -Yesterday we had a really meaningful and encouraging lunch at the bag shop at Plywood.
    -A [really small] small group this week meant we had some really good conversations.
    -Spontaneous time with friends.
    -A night with nothing to do.
    -My roommate making me laugh so hard I cried.
    -An electric throw blanket.
    -My parents celebrated 43 years of marriage.

    What have been the little things that have helped you see good?

  • Distractions or opportunities

    Distractions or opportunities:I have a hard time differentiating. I've been frustrated about a bunch of things that FEEL like gigantic distractions. I allow the distractions themselves to become the fog that keeps me from moving in the right direction. All day long-every day, things happen where we get to choose to see either distractions or opportunities.

    A friend asked me to name things I'm thankful for. She knew if I could stop seeing the hard stuff as distractions, I might be able to see them as opportunities to make a difference.  It was a really helpful idea. It's work to think in a different way, and practicing gratitude made the work of changing my perspective a celebratory practice, instead of a confrontation.

    Colossians 4:5-6 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

    I want my words seasoned with grace today and to make the most of every opportunity I have. And maybe others will be working toward the same end. And maybe it will make the work of thinking in a different way a little less work. 

  • Slowing Down

    I have a tough time slowing down, yet I crave it. Being an introvert, I love time alone where I can sit, think, write, not have to think of small talk converstaions...I enjoy quiet.

    I seem to do this to myself a few times a year, where I jam pack my schedule so full that I can't slow down. Even when I'm resting My mind is moving in 100 different directions because I have to move on to the next thing. This kind of busy keeps me from fully enjoying what I'm doing at each moment, and it keeps my mind anxious.

    I had a life coach a year ago who helped me think a lot about how I handle stress in my life. She asked me in busy times like these to intentionally take a few minutes in the course of the day to stop. What good advice! [that I haven't been taking]

    I'm going to practice stopping today as I move from one meeting to the next. I'm going to purposefully use driving time for solitude instead of returning voicemails, and to channel the peace that God promises. My hope is instead of chaos ruling my mind and heart today, I will see the peace of God as the steady current. 

  • The Mondays

    Mondays can be overwhelming, can't they? I woke up early this morning after having dreamt [nightmared] that I messed up a whole bunch of things with a fundraiser I plan every year. I felt as though I'd already been working for days. But no, I wasn't actually accomplishing anything, I wasn't solving any problems, and my anxiety at 7:30 on Monday morning has actually become counter-productive to accomplishing goals I have for my week.

    Reset.

    I wish it was as easy as poking a button. It's not. 

    Psalm 94:19
    When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
    Your consolations delight my soul.

    I can either perpetuate the anxiety that has started me off for my week, or I can allow God's consolations to be my delight. Anxiety or delight. I choose. 

    I'm thankful today for the opportunity to have eyes that choose to delight in the consolations of God instead of staying mired in anxiety. 


  • Perspective Adjustment

    I am reading a wonderful book with my sister right now called Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. He talks a lot about how the time to practice adjusting your perspective on suffering is NOT when you're in the middle of suffering.  During suffering any lesson seems trite and out of place. But if our perspectives are changed BEFORE we're hurting, we'll more readily be able to see the good in the midst of it. We'll believe God's character, because we have already been believing it. 

    How true is this? It seems counter-intuitive to our sensibilities to spend time thinking about suffering when things are going alright. It almost seems an afront to the times of blessing. But if Keller is right, the times of good are maybe the only times my heart will be open to understanding deep truths about God and how He uses suffering in my life to draw me to Himself. 

    Instead of thinking "WHY ME" what if we thought "why NOT me." What if in the times of good, we gratefully thank God for the times of blessing and for a faith that gives us comfort that God endured suffering to be able to taste death in our place, and relate to our suffering. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

    Now is the time that I have eyes to see how great His love is to me. If I train my eyes to see the good now then in the times when good is hard to come by, I can rest on the faithfulness of God and trust He'll be faithful again.

  • Birthdays and Family

    Growing up my mom had this birthday tradition of making us our very own table runner for the whole month. It said in bubble letters happy birthday to us, and had stickers and notes of love all over it. Every time we came to the table for the whole month we were celebrated. For meals, games of Yahtzee, cups of tea, homework, eating casseroles, sifting through the mail; every activity we did for the whole month had the undertone of celebration. 

    Today is my oldest brother Wes' birthday. He's 9 years older than me, and has taught me a lot about pursuing dreams, prioritizing family, paying little attention to what others say about you, speaking your mind, working hard, loving other cultures, and living for the Lord. 

    I'm thankful to get to learn from him what it looks like to have eyes that are quick to see needs and then to have a willingness to meet them. I'm also thankful that my mom had eyes to see what a gift it would be for her kids to be celebrated for a whole month in a meaningful yet simple way. I loved those table runners!

  • My Perch

    My roommate owns the house we live in. She's worked hard to make it home with warm and inviting colors, letting me move my 400 pound piano from Nebraska, and making me my perch.

    My favorite spot in the house is in the entry with my piano, an old trunk, and the comfiest chairs I've ever sat in. Every morning I start my day here with a throw and a cup of coffee, waiting for the light. This chair is my favorite spot in the whole house. It's become overgrown with all the books I'm reading, pens and note cards scattered around the chair, and pillows a little mishapen from haphazardly throwing them to the side or using them as my desk.

    I love this spot. I feel the most at home right here.

    I'm thankful for the shelter, for warmth and safety, but I'm mostly thankful for a place for my heart to feel at home. It's a gift I know not to take for granted, because I've seen others live with much less. It's the littlest comforts that often feel the most comforting. It's a comfy a brown chair, a favorite coffee mug, a warm blanket. And there, home is made. 

  • More Jesus In My Life

    On Sunday I was having a rough day. Sometimes circumstances all converge in such a way that the whole world seems to be conspiring against my contentment. Sunday was one of those days. I went to help hold a paint can while my friend painted 15 feet in the air. I got the easy job. While she was on the top rung of the ladder I completely broke down, drowning in the weight of not being able to "keep it together." 

    I'm not much of a crier, so this was a bit out of the ordinary for me. If I cry it's typically within the safety of my own closed walls where I don't have to look anyone in the eye. It is scary to lay that much vulnerability out in front of someone. 

    As my friend and I talked, I shared that I was feeling compelled to ask for more Jesus in my life. It seems overly simplistic, maybe even trite, but it's what my spirit was feeling nonetheless. She climbed down the ladder, took the paint can out of my hand, gave me a giant hug, and listened as I layed out my vulnerability.

    Fast forward to last night. I was having coffee with another friend. She was sharing about her small group, and how they're practicing vulnerability. Without me sharing about my Sunday experience, she told me that her small group leader had shared that he had recently started praying for more Jesus in his life, and challenged his group to do the same. 

    It was confirmation that this simple truth is one that needs to sink more deeply into me.

    It's often the simplest truths that become most profound when our eyes catch a glimpse of something, that they have lost sight of for a while. I KNOW I could use more Jesus in my life. It's not a new truth, but it's a gift I had stopped asking for.  

    How kind of the Lord to gently remind me that He wants to fill my cup to overflowing. He wants to be my portion and He wants to assure me that He is not only the God of the universe, but also the proud owner of my heart. 

  • Work as a Gift

    My community group is reading a book called "Every Good Endeavor" by Tim Keller. We've established through our discussions and reading Scripture that work is a gift. I think at times, when work gets stressful, there aren't enough people to do the work at hand, things don't go quite right, or we're afraid things won't go quite right that I have a tendency to lose sight of the fact that work is a gift. 

    Yesterday for work we had a meeting with some pastors from a local church. Another guy came along because some contract work he had been doing, ended on Friday. He woke up yesterday morning and called his pastors to see if he could ride along for our meeting.

    It turns out his life work has been to solve a problem that we have been having. I have been needing help with realistic pricing of our products. He has spent his life doing cost analysis for companies. And with not having the contract currently, he is happy to have something to do. We were both excited as the meeting was ending that he would be able to volunteer his time to help solve a problem for us.

    In that moment, I was reminded what a gift work is. 

    Sometimes seeing the good takes a mysterious turn. What had me feeling stressed at 8 AM Monday morning, by noon the same day turned into a huge blessing for someone else. He was looking for a job to do, and my need enables him to use his skills in a meaningful way. Work is a gift. It was also a gift to be able to see so tangibly how true that is. 

    SEEING THE GOOD: 
    Released of Perfection 
    Ender Obsession
     
    Headache Free 
    Sister Conversations 
    Work as a Gift

  • Sister Conversations

    My neice recently figured out how to text and facetime through the family iPad. It's meant my sister-in-law, Chris and I, have facetime calls with her wrestling the kids for the iPad, so we can catch up on life, work, the kids, church, etc... It's also meant that Chris occasionally sends me pictures of the sunrise she's watching so we can drink coffee and watch the sunrise together. 

    My sister Manel and I weekly have marathon long phone calls, always talking about a book we're reading together, along with anything else our minds think of. Our goodbye typically lasts for 20 minutes because "oh yeah, I meant to tell you..." goes on forever. There's always another thing we wanted our sisters to know.

    My sisters are the women in my life most committed to my growth. They're willing to see good in me, even when I'm selfish, controlling, or insecure. They're the ones I can call and say, "right now, I just need you to tell me I'm awesome." And then they graciously say nice things that talk of me off whatever ledge I'm on. I trust them and their walk with Jesus, I'm challenged by their resourcefulness and character, and they just happen to be two of my very best friends.

    I don't know about you, but for me, it's just easier to find the good in some people than it is in others. My sisters are that for me. Consistently, their good outshines their faults. I have to dig deep to find their faults. Their good is what stands out the most obvious in their lives. I want to train my eyes to see others in such a way that I see the good in them before I dig for their faults. This is the way my sisters love. In our conversations they look for what they can praise in others before they name failures. I have a lot to learn from them.

    SEEING THE GOOD: 
    Released of Perfection 
    Ender Obsession
     
    Headache Free 
    Sister Conversations 
    Work as a Gift

  • Headache Free

    Day 3: For 3 days straight I had a raging headache last week. I was miserable. Nothing helped.  I'd go home right after work and go straight to bed. I didn't want to talk to anyone because I knew I wouldn't be able to respond in kindness. I wasn't showing up well to commitments I had. I let myself get stressed out which felt like defeat when I've been working so hard at managing my stress well.

    I woke up on what might have been the 4th day of a headache, dreading the alarm. I just knew it was going to be another day like the 3 before and I didn't know how I was possibly going to make it through another, but I took some Excedrine, and the headache finally went away. This is now my 3rd day of NOT having a raging headache, and I woke up this morning so thankful that I could excitedly see the sun instead of wanting to crawl in a self-pitying dark hole.

    Not feeling well makes me so thankful for days when I do feel well. I'm so grateful that I can think of something other than how to manage pain. I get to think of other things that are important to me, and look forward to a full day of accomplishing things I wasn't able to do while I wasn't feeling well.

    It's hard to see the good through pain, and I think truly, the only way to be able to, is to have been practicing during good times. When painful times hit there's no switch to turn on to magically be able to see what is good amidst the bad. Maybe by the end of 30 days of Seeing The Good, my eyes will be trained to more quickly see good through pain. 

    SEEING THE GOOD: 
    Released of Perfection 
    Ender Obsession
     
    Headache Free 
    Sister Conversations 
    Work as a Gift

  • Ender Obsession

    Day 2: I got to see Ender's Game [the new movie]. I've obsessively read that book 6 times, and the subsequent 7 books as well. I love the story. When I heard they were making the movie, I tried to find whoever was in charge of the soundtrack so I could tell that Imogen Heap NEEDED to be the soundtrack. I failed. Imogen Heap's voice is nowhere to be found in the movie. It's a huge disappointment.

    I believe everyone has a little bit of geekiness in them. [Some, like me, have more than others.] They are the little endearing qualities that those who love you best notice and relish in you.

    It's your horrible cat allergies, your surprising knack for remembering numbers, how you know ALL the words to every Joni Mitchell song ever written, that your favorite movie secretly is The 10 Commandments, or maybe it's your affinity for "paranormal teen romance" novels.

    Yesterday for me, it was my obsessiveness with Ender. My geek showed big time.

    I love getting to know the geek hidden in the people I love. I love seeing these things, not in a  "oh my gosh, why does she have to be such a geek" kind of way. But in a "those are the endearing things that make her who she is, and I LOVE that about her" kind of way. 

    And there's little that makes me feel MORE loved than when I'm loved FOR my geekiness, not despite of it.

    What's geeky about you? I bet there is someone who loves you SO much for that very thing! Aren't you so thankful they see that as good in you?

    SEEING THE GOOD: 
    Released of Perfection 
    Ender Obsession
     
    Headache Free 
    Sister Conversations 
    Work as a Gift

  • Released of Perfection

    For the month of November, I’ve decided I want to be at work seeing the good. As I’ve been reflecting on my month of Kindness, it’s reminded me of how kind God is to me on a daily basis, only I often don’t have eyes to see it, but after my eyes adjust, it's like seeing a tiny light through a whole lot of darkness. I’d like to spend the month choosing to start my days with gratitude. If I miss a day posting, it probably has more to do with busyness than not being able to find something, but I’m going to try to overcome that trap for 30 days as well.

    This will be my "Everything-I-know-about-Kindness" just spread out throughout the month.

    So here we go, on November 1st: Today I’m so thankful to be released of perfection. I spend so much time replaying conversations, interactions, and responses. I think of what I should have said, how I better should have prepared, what I could have done instead. I’m thankful that today, I get to do my best and let the rest … rest. 

    Do you fall into this same trap? Well, whether I live like it or not, I'm not in control of ANYTHING, and you can ask everyone around me how well I do at being perfect ;/ Or don't. Let's be kind.

    In moments of clarity, I have eyes to see how perfection is impossible. I can trace the evidence of grace through my imperfections and trust the transforming power of the Spirit in my life.

    SEEING THE GOOD: 
    Released of Perfection 
    Ender Obsession

    Headache Free
    Sister Conversations
    Work as a Gift

  • Everything I Know About Exercise

    Here are a few things that I know about sports, working out, athleticism [or the lack thereof.]

    -Getting to it is the worst part about it. Once I’m doing it, I’m typically happy I did.

    -One time my friend took me on “a little hike” and almost killed me. From that point on I refer that hike as "The Death Hike." I’m a little more cautious about saying yes to her for hiking ;)

    -My sister used to make me run lines in the driveway because she thought that I should be athletic. It turned out that it didn't help.

    -I’ll never be the kind of girl to join a gym with big windows. If there’s one thing that would de-motivate me the fastest it would be the idea of someone watching me die a slow, sweaty, and breathless death.

    -I used to play basketball in jr. high and made a basket for the other team. It was pretty much the end of my basketball-playing career.

    -I have this bad habit of waiting too long between working out, so I’ll do it, and then be sore for 3 days while I’m waiting not to be quite so sore. Then I’ll run or do 30-Day Shred [cursing Jillian] and be sore for 3 more days. I can reason in my head that I just have to “work through the pain” but there’s a louder more insistent voice that says, “oh, just roll over. You can do it tomorrow morning.” And that voice typically wins.

    -I’m better at committing to it if I have someone to hold me to it.

    -I understand football better than I let on that I do.


    Scripture and Working Out
    Me and Exercise
    Everything I Know about Exercise

  • Everything I Know About Prayer

    A couple friends and I used to have a little writing group we called "everything we know about..." we would choose a different topic and then write about it. The perameters were: We couldn't do research. It had to be only things we thought of on our own in our own mind, and we could write anything we wanted about it. So this is everything I know about prayer.

    -Prayer is work. Prayer doesn’t come easy and when it does, it’s because of the practice that has led up to it. It takes intentionality and initiative.

    -It’s hard to focus my mind. When I pray my mind wanders. It’s helpful for me to incorporate prayer practices like the prayer beads or walking a labyrinth that has my body moving while my heart and mind are talking with God.

    -Everyone tells me a different “right” way to do it, and until something strikes my heart meaningfully it all just sounds like a bunch of religious jargon. But once I have been able to quiet the noise enough to talk with God, I don’t care much about if I started the prayer correctly or ended it how I was “supposed” to, if I had to have something like beads to hold while I prayer, or if I needed to be moving through a labyrinth. Let’s rejoice when people talk with God instead of judging the way they do it. It doesn’t do anyone any good to make them self-conscious about their prayer practices. If we are all honestly seeking the Lord, He’s going to meet us where we are, and take us where He intends us to be.

    -I won't say I will pray for someone unless I actually pray for them. So if I tell you I'll pray for you, it means I really will. 

    -This weekend a friend told me she prays for me everyday and I cried. It's amazing to be prayed for!

    -Prayer brings Scripture quick to my mind. I moved into my month of prayer pretty soon after my month of studying Scripture. I was actually really sad to be leaving the Scripture study behind. I didn’t WANT to move from Scripture to prayer. But I found as I spent time in prayer, God brought Scripture to my mind. It was on my mind more when I was praying than when I was studying Scripture, which sounds counter-intuitive. I’m not sure why that is, but I think in part as we’re taking time to talk and listen to God, He reminds us of Scripture that gets His point across.

    -Barely anybody actually likes popcorn prayer.

    -When prayers are answered, it increases my faith. This seems obvious, but until I was praying and seeing God answer my prayers, I wasn’t noticing how much I was or wasn’t trusting the Lord. In prayer I know if my heart believes what my mind is saying to God. And I know the times I am admitting that I WANT to trust Him, but in that moment may not have the faith.

    -If I pray for other people I begin to love them better. I can’t help it. I judge less, have more compassion for, and begin to understand the person in a new way. I can’t genuinely pray for the good of someone and maintain resentments. 

    Prayer and Gentleness

    THE DENTIST.

    A Confession


  • Nurturing family relationships at a distance.

    I have been on a journey of living mindfully. Each month I cover a different discipline and Fruit of the Spirit. My month-long experiences began HERE.

    Month 4: Family
    Fruit of the Spirit: Love
    The Goal: Call each family member once a week.
    The Rules: **Each week call all 4 siblings, and my parents.
    The Outcome: Some weeks I did better than others. I did overall, end up talking with my family more than usual, and it was nice to feel connected. It made me also want to prioritize seeing them more.

    It’s challenging to know exactly how to nurture family relationships living so far away from them. It’s definitely not a little car ride. In fact, I’ve never even MADE that drive to go see them. It would be 17 hours in the car and I’m a little intimidated by it. It takes quite a bit of planning to get our family of now 17 people at the same place at the same time.

    My family is really close, however. We want to know what’s going on in each other’s lives and be apart of it in every way that we are able, even if it doesn’t mean in person. For my month prioritizing family, I started calling my siblings and parents more often. I tried to call everyone once a week. I haven’t been awesome about keeping it up every week, BUT my month focused on them really did change my priorities of my family for the whole next year. I’ve seen my family more in the last year than in the 3 years before combined, I think.

    My family does a few unique things to stay in touch with each other that I love. I don’t get to take credit for these. My parents and siblings all have prioritized family and these are a few traditions that are especially meaningful.

    1. We do mass family emails nearly every day. We update each other on what’s going on in each of our lives in the day to day. They’re not crazy long or in-depth, usually just a couple paragraphs, but the emails keep us connected to each other. Even though we’re not there to see it, we know what everyone is up to.
    2. My mom sends us a card with a recipe and a picture EVERY WEEK. I’m not even kidding. How amazing is that?? I know every Thursday when I check my mail I’ll have a note from my mom. It never gets old!
    3. We get together at least twice a year. We try to more often, and sometimes some of us get together and others can’t make it, but the whole family, all 17 of us, get together for the holidays and in the summertime. We hike and explore new places, we take naps, we read, we have water balloon fights, eat a ton of food, and just generally enjoy each other.
    4. My parents make us a book to remember our trips. They own a laminating company so each book is carefully laminated and marked with a date and a note that it’s made with love. I have a growing pile of these little reminders of how much we love each other.

    What family traditions do you have that keeps your family connected? How do you prioritize your family even at a distance?

    A Promise and a Warning

  • 7 Tips for Studying

    In the course of my study of James, and what I am studying now, I have learned some practices that have been beneficial in approaching Scripture.

    1. You don’t have to make up your own study. Getting back into study, I needed a guide, so I found one that I thought could be helpful.  As I went through it, I remembered how to study. It was like a refresher course. Sometimes I can feel badly about needing an outside source to get me going, but really, the important thing is to be studying. Who cares if it’s a Bible study someone else might guffaw at. Be willing to admit you have something to learn from someone else, and let them help guide you through it. BUT THINK as you’re doing it. It’s rare to find someone you will agree 100% with their interpretation.

    2. Set a time limit. For myself, 30 minutes was what I gave myself each day when I was starting out. I’ve heard stories of old evangelists spending 2 hours a day in prayer and Bible Study, and although it might be something to aspire to, if I’d set out with that much time I would have lasted all of 2 days. 30 minutes was already a ton more time than I had been giving in this department, so 30 minutes was beneficial and transformational AND something I could commit to.

    3. Tell people what you learn. I couldn’t help but talk about what I was learning through my time in Scripture. As I noted before, it just makes it’s way into conversation when it’s what I’m spending time doing. It’s important to talk about it, because the power in it is ingrained that much more deeply when you’re sharing your learnings with others. AND you often will find out that the people around you are also learning things from Scripture that you’d never have known about if you hadn’t opened the conversation. It becomes an incredible challenge to one another to continue to learn what God says about stuff.

    4.    Ask Questions. I’ve started a study of the Gospels recently, and I keep a spreadsheet [I love spreadsheets] of questions I have about the text as I’m reading it. In my initial reading and overview I think about things I have questions about. And then my study becomes finding their answers. Like, how are water and forgiveness talked about in the Old Testament? Or, why did Luke give John the Baptist’s background and Mark says very little at all about him? Does anyone other than John the Baptist refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God?” It becomes a lot less daunting to Study Scripture when I’m just answering questions that I have about what I’m reading.

    5.    Have a rhyme and reason. For me, it’s helpful to have order to my study. If I’m jumping around reading something different everyday it’s difficult to create any kind of consistency. I do MUCH better if there’s order involved. I can actually ask questions of the text and next time come back to answering them.

    6.    Read these books. There are two books that helped give me a framework for studying. How to Study your Bible by Kay Arthur and Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks. If you are going to dig into these, I’d definitely recommend reading them with a friend. No offense to Kay or Howard, but as helpful as they are in learning how to study, it’s really easy to set them down and never open them again. It helps a lot to read them with someone.

    7.    Try Lectio Divina. My community group studied Scripture this way throughout our year together. We choose a few verses of Scripture, read them, meditated on them, prayed through them, and shared what God is saying, what the author might be meaning, and how it might take root in our lives. It was a way of studying that was really meaningful for our little group and I still remember when we talked about Mary and Martha and if a Father would give us a stone or bread.  

    How do you study Scripture? What books/resources have been helpful for you? 

  • What you can try to make cleaning out easier.

    When I was cleaning out my house, these are a few of the things that helped me in the process. When I love everything I own, there were some good rules of thumb that helped me out in getting rid of some things I no longer needed. This is what helped me...

    1. Choose your times to clean out wisely. I’d have this inner dialogue lying in bed Saturday mornings. “Ready, Set, Go. The earlier you get up and clean out this crap, the sooner you can get on to drinking your coffee and reading. Come on. Just get up. Just get it over with.” And then I’d start negotiating. “Or, Go ahead and drink your coffee first and deal with that junk later. Yes, ok, that’s what I’ll do.” Then it would be Sunday morning and I’d find myself lying in bed starting the conversation all over again. I actually found that I was most successful at it after a long day at work when my mind was too tired to process exactly everything that I was about to do. Who knows what will work for you, but be strategic about the times you choose to clean out.

    2. Don’t tackle all of it at once. Choose one section at a time. If you try to do it all at once, your house will be a mess and you’ll end up just putting everything back in boxes and then back in your attic. You might have more success if you choose one little spot at a time. You’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something by cleaning out that section, and feel ready to move on to the next thing when the time comes.

    3. Take pictures of the things you think you might miss. You can still toss stuff and remember them. If you think it might cheer you up later to remember it or remind you a loved one you don’t want to forget but you KNOW you’re never going to wear that moth eaten sweater again, take a picture of it. You can scrapbook it or something :)

    4. Invite a friend over. My roommate was AWESOME at reminding me that I didn’t need stuff to remember. She’d say things like, “are you SURE you need to keep that?” I’d want to become defensive for a second and then realize, well, actually no. I don’t need to keep that. Other people can help reduce the sentimentality just enough to be helpful in de-cluttering.

    5. Give it away. Once I had a friend who when I told her I loved this certain pair of earrings she wore, she gave me the earrings. Isn’t that crazy?! Try it! If someone compliments something you have, give it to them! It will keep you from having too much stuff and it will remind you to be generous.

    This is still a journey for me that I’m pretty sure every couple years I’m going to need to revisit. So, what helps you clean out corners of your life and house? I’ll probably need your advice soon enough!!

  • Five Tips for Budgeting

    A few budgeting tips:

    I have learned a bunch of things through the process of living on a budget. Now that I’ve adjusted to it, I really enjoy the freedom I’ve found in it. Let me know what you’ve learned in the course of budgeting. I’d love to hear your tips and ideas as well.

    1. I started using cash, and stopped using my credit card for anything but travel and gas. Using cash helps me see what I’ve spent and what I have left. I don’t make irresponsible purchases as often, because I can see that it will keep me from having money for something else that I want or need.
    2. Make sure the budget is actually something that is realistic. I would find that the first time I blew my budget, I lost all incentive to stick with it, so my credit card bill would end up bigger than I’d planned. I gave myself an extra $20 to ensure that I could actually stay on budget. One mess up with the budget doesn’t mean I have to let the whole thing go. If I give myself enough in the budget to actually get by on, I’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
    3. I eat better on a budget. Well, I eat at home more, anyway. Eating out destroys my budget so I find myself being more careful about making meals and taking my lunch to work.
    4. I’m saving money. It sounds so obvious, but actually being able to put money in savings feels awesome, so it incentivizes me to stick with the budget.
    5. While learning to live on a budget, give yourself a lot of grace. It will take a couple months to learn how to stick within the budget. For the first 2 weeks, I didn’t let myself eat out at all. At the end of the 2 weeks I had cash left over and I felt a sense of pride about that. It helped me know that the next 2 weeks I could go out a couple times and be able to afford it. I still have times that I totally blow the budget, BUT the more I stick with it, the more I find that I have an easy time sticking with it.
    What about you? What have you learned from setting and sticking to a budget? Is there a resource you've used that's helped you? 
    Here's an outline of the spreadsheet I created to budget...
    [I LOVE spreadsheets.]
    You can catch up on other Money thoughts here. 
  • The Start of a Solution to my Undisciplined Life

    When I think about disciplines and what they mean for a meaningful life, my thinking has mostly consisted of questioning:

    What DOES it mean to live a disciplined life?

    What are the most important disciplines?

    How do I choose what to incorporate and then stick to them?

    How do I not get discouraged and then just throw it out completely because there’s TOO much in life that requires discipline that I just can’t keep up?

    [I ask a lot of questions, as you can tell.]

    I also realized I could ask questions until the cows came home, but that never really helped me to actively understand anything more about disciplines. Understanding would come with practice.

    In order to seek to understand, after I realized intentionality and disciplines cannot be separated from each other, I set out to begin experiences in discipline. Each experience would teach me what it looked like to make intentional choices. I had no illusions that they were things I could do of my own willpower. My hope was that through these experiences my heart and mind would become open to the transformation of the Spirit. 

    To start, I set TWO parameters around my experiences:

    -1 experience a month. The goal was not to layer on top of each other, but simply to try one, and then put it aside the next month to pursue something else.

    -Each experience was tied to a Fruit of the Spirit. I wanted to be thinking about one of the fruits God promised life with Him would bring.

    I didn’t document throughout the process, really. I was simply trying to make choices that would better my person and perspective.

    My hope is that as I share my experiences they help to lessen the fears associated with disciplines and intentionality. I also hope to explain some of the reasons I’ve made the decisions I’ve been making, and why I’m going to continue to make some of the changes I put into practice throughout my Year of Intentionality.

    My whole year of intentionality was trial and error. I would start and stop. Some months I would start day 1 and be totally committed. Some months I couldn’t even bring myself to carry out the discipline at all [You’ll learn that when I get to talking about July and November]. Some months I was committed but I would take a whole 8 days to finally get started. But through and through, I was transformed in small yet meaningful ways. Maybe it’s not noticeable to anyone else, but inside me, I feel a bit of a turn-about.

    More of a turning up. I have felt the hand of God lift my chin to look up. I’ve felt Him asking me to join creation in acknowledging a beauty greater than my own that can only be found when with a willing heart I’m open to allowing God to shave off roughness that I valued so highly but that ultimately, kept me from Him. 

    2012: My Year of Intentionality.

    Month: Experience: Fruit of the Spirit -- Rules

    January: Money: Self-Control -- Pare back my budget, only spend money on: Rent, Utilities, Gas, Groceries.

    February: Cleaning out: Patience -- Clean out my closet, under my bed, my notes, the attic...

    March: Bible Study: Faithfulness -- Do an in-depth Bible Study

    April: Family: Love -- Call each family member once a week.

    May: Prayer: Gentleness -- Get Anglican prayer beads and pray through them everyday.

    June: Exercise: Faithfulness -- Exercise 5 days a week.

    July: Fasting: Self-Control -- Do the Daniel fast.

    August: Encouragement: Kindness -- Write Someone a note everyday.

    September: Boundaries: Peace -- Begin learning about and putting boundaries in place.

    October: Music: Joy -- Play my piano 30 minutes a day, everyday

    November : Daily Office: Peace -- Practice the Daily Office DAILY and Practice a weekly Sabbath.

    December: Writing: Goodness -- Write something every day.

    Thursday I'll begin sharing about what I learned as I walked through each month living intentionally. Some months were more impactful than others, so I'll have lots and lots to say about them. Some of them I didn't even do, so they'll be a little sparse. Others were matter-a-fact...I did the thing and moved on. I'm excited to share them and to hear how you've practiced the same disciplines and how the Fruits of the Spirit have become evident in your life!

  • Everything I know about being grounded.

    I’m an introvert.  I love time alone and it’s typically how I recharge. It means that sometimes when I over commit to people or projects church, even things I’m passionate about, I at times can become overwhelmed. Almost 2 years ago I’d reached my breaking point. I found myself thinking about things as impossibilities instead of viewing opportunities. Everything I did, even FUN things felt like work. I was done for.  

    I decided I needed to do something drastic to become grounded again, so I grounded myself. I needed to intentionally decide to concentrate on slowing down.  I wanted to see life in a new way.  I wanted to look at it a little more slowly.

    I set some ground rules for myself. My grounding consisted of only going out one night a week, eating healthy meals at home, exercising, and going to bed early.  I knew unless I made a real commitment to it, I would never actually make any changes.  I prioritized my spirituality, and I learned some really valuable lessons along the way.  Here are a few of the things I learned.

    1.  When I become disciplined in one area of my life, discipline in other areas follows.  Discipline follows discipline.

    2.  I am an anxious person.  When I was living in solitude, I realized I was covering my anxiety with busyness.  Taking time for silence taught me to sit with my fear long enough to come to a place of real peace, instead of just doing something else so I didn’t have to face it.  When I stopped being busy, I started being honest.

    3.  At times, in order to gain focus to life, I will have to make drastic changes that others might not understand.  Just because someone else doesn’t understand my priorities, does not mean that they shouldn’t be prioritized.  Solitude is not selfish.

    4.  When learning the discipline of solitude, it causes intentionality in relationships.  My time with others was carefully chosen so when we were together I wanted it to count.  Intentionality makes my relationships better.

    5.  No matter how many tasks are at hand pulling for my attention, sometimes it’s better to put them away instead of just trudging through.  When I come back to them later, I’ll attack the tasks with better efficiency, vision and fervor.  Quitting (for a little while) makes my work better.