Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Use a Pencil

I just discovered something simple that takes a little stress out of my life: write with a pencil. I know it seems crazy, but I found that writing in my day planner with pencil makes my life much easier. I still use a pen sometimes, but only for things that are set in stone that I know won't change. I write everything else in pencil - including meals, how I'm spending blocks of time, exercise, everything.

For some reason, being able to erase and change things around easily gives me peace of mind. For example, I was going to spend most of tomorrow painting the kitchen. Two things changed. First of all, my husband and I decided we want to finish the bathroom before the kitchen. Second, the builders are still working, and I don't feel comfortable doing a lot of heavy work when they are around. Solution, erase, copy, move around - presto chango, and all stress free - keeping my planner looking nice and neat.

I know this may not sound like much to you guys, but it made a BIG difference to me. It's like using a pencil gives me freedom to be more flexible. I love it.

Fruit of the spirit - Joy

Joy. This is a word that is talked about throughout the Bible. David talks about joy, Jesus talks about Joy, Paul talks about joy. In fact one of the fruits of the spirit is joy.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
~Galatians 5:22-23a
So, joy is a fruit of the spirit, what does that mean? That means if Christ is living in us, our hearts will be filled with joy!

God longs for our hearts to be filled with joy. He shows us that through nature - singing birds, beautiful flowers, the sun and moon that give us light and so much more. He gives us joy through people - loved ones that surround us. He longs to fill our hearts with joy so that we may have so much of it that it does not diminish even in the face of adversity.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Let us do just that. Leave a comment and give thanks to God. What makes you joyful? How does God bring happiness into your life?

Monday, February 25, 2008


I have some exciting news! My passion for Joshua's House is growing again! I can't wait to be able to really delve into things. It's hard because now with remodeling the house, teaching, leading Sabbath School, and being a wife I only have about 10 hours a week available to work on Joshua's house. But God knows that, and whatever I have is enough for Him.

You are probably wondering what made the change, what pulled me out of the slump. Two things really. First of all, sharing. You know that's how things are. The more we share with others about things that are exciting to us, the more excited we get. That's why it's so important for us to continually share with others what God is doing in our lives. May our lips never quiet.
I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

~ Psalm 34:1-3

The second thing is remembering who I am and what God has called me to. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I am a missionary for God right here. Often the going gets tough, and because I live in comfortable suburbia, it's easy to forget my calling. Yet God never fails to call me back. So here I am. I am ready to serve God however He calls me to serve. I'm ready to give Him my all, be it through Joshua's House, my contact with people at the grocery store, serving my husband, or anything in-between.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
~ Colossi ans 3:1-4

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Creating Margins

This Sabbath included a lot of serious prayer and wrestling with God . . . and my schedule. Arlen and I have come to realize how unreasonable our schedules and expectations are. The worst thing was coming to terms with the fact that we haven't been allowing God to be Lord of our lives. Rather, we have tried to do things our own way. We are working really hard with God to get on track.

We are both trying to learn to live with margins. (Margins are breathing room in your schedule where nothing is planned.) It's so easy for us to cram everything in as tight as we can. We then end up stressed and rarely have time for the things that are really important in life (like people). Another thing that we noticed is that we rarely take time to actually evaluate or schedules and expectations.

One of the first steps for me was making the decision to cut some things out of my schedule. After this semester, I will not be teaching at Southern any more. I am also dropping two of the three things I'm involved with at church. (Don't worry, I'm not leaving the Junior department.) Even with these changes, things are a bit tight, but God will continue to lead.

As I was working on my new system of schedules and to do lists I found some interesting discoveries. I looked at my to do list and picked the really important things that "must be done this week." After I chose these items I began looking at how much time each one is really going to take. Then I started trying to put them all into my schedule. Maybe if I didn't sleep, and added 2-5 hours to every day I could get them all done. At first these discoveries were a bit discouraging; yet as I pondered, this new information became liberating. Now I can give others proper expectations about when I can get things done. I can have proper expectations for myself. Not only that, but I won't be so hard on myself for failing to keep up with an impossible schedule.

I'm also learning that the things that are important to God are the things that are most important period . . . regardless of what others think. This one can be hard for me at times, but when people see something about me or my life, they are only catching a small glimpse. Even I can see but a shadow of it all - only God has a bird's eye view.

I can tell that God is working in my life in so many ways. I still have much to learn and many ways to grow. This is all rather exciting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beagle Chasing

I just realized that so many of my blogs are about stress and learning to trust in God. (I'm a slow learner, but I'm so thankful God hasn't given up on me.) In lieu of this, I thought I should submit a blog on something a little different.

I would love to impart some useful piece of knowledge, but nothing is coming to mind . . . Oh, I know, I'll tell you a fun story.

As some of you know I want a dog so very badly!! I have wanted one for a long time, but now that we have a house, that desire has grown into a gigantic . . . thing. I'm sure a lot of this is because now, having a dog is actually an option. Yet, even thought it is a possibility, my husband and I have decided to wait on getting such a fun, furry friend for a few other things.

#1 - We need to get the house done and be all settled in
#2 - We need to get Arlen's cat all comfy and settled
#3 - Some certain financial goals must be met

Having said all of this, I can now tell my story.

As Arlen and I were headed back from Hilton Head on Saturday, Arlen spotted a beagle on the side of the interstate. My immediate response was to pull over - a dog on the interstate can only mean something bad. Unfortunately I did not convey this information to Arlen fast enough. In the back of my mind too, I knew that if we rescued the little tyke and were unable to find it's owners (which is likely because it was probably a dumped dog), we would end up keeping it. I liked this idea, but I ultimately let Arlen make the decision about going on or turning back.

He decided to turn back.

I became excited, picturing myself driving back with a cute little dog in my arms. "Lord," I prayed, "please help us to get the dog, and help it to be okay."

To make a long story short, after backtracking several exits, talking to a friendly sheriff and running like crazy, we were unable to find the missing hound. It seems there was another family or couple who had the same idea as us, and they were able to get to the little guy first. (At least we think that must be what happened.)

I have to admit that at first I was a little bummed. After 30+ minutes of searching, and an eager anticipation of a new pet, I was a bit crushed.

However as I got home, I realized just how perfect God's timing is. When we got home, hardly any more work had been done on finishing our house. In my moment of excitement, I had forgotten about some important financial obligations that would have been strained, not to mention the mental stability of my husband's beloved cat.

God wants us to ask Him for things. Sometimes He says yes, and sometimes He says no. When He says no, we must trust that He is looking out for us, even when we can't see it.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

~ Psalm 27:14

Out on a Limb

I saw this picture today and thought, "boy can I relate."

Sometimes I feel as if life is so crazy and busy that I am going to fall off of the limb that I'm barely hanging on to.

This happened to me today. It seemed like everything was going wrong. Things with the house were not going well, things with Joshua's house were not going well and on top of all that, my external back-up hard-drive appeared to be broken. I had taken the time to plan out my day nicely and be realistic about my expectations, but I felt like I was just barely hanging on to a limb.

I want you to look at that picture closer though. Does that leopard look scared? Does he look like he is barely hanging on? No. He knows that he is on a solid surface that will support him well. What if he started freaking out and didn't trust the strong branch underneath him? Do you think he would be so safe then? Of course not - he would be in danger of falling off.

Hmm . . . it started making sense. If I will just trust the foundation I have under me, and not freak out, things won't be so bad. Upon this discovery, I stopped for a few minutes to spend some time with the One who holds me. I realized how often I don't trust Him and I depend on my own strength. He led me here, and it is here that I will leave you (NIV emphasis mine):

Psalm 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Some things I long for:
  • A finished home that I can settle into
  • More funding for Joshua's House
  • A few Godly friends who I can study the Bible with and turn to for a pointer back to God
  • Opportunities to help others
  • Wisdom with finances
  • Patience
  • Dedication
  • The ability to get out of the rat race of life and into a slower pace of life
  • My backup drive for my computer to work again

Some things that I am thankful for
  • A roof over my head
  • A wonderful and loving husband
  • Many friends who call me to tell me happy birthday and the like (it really means a lot)
  • God's strength to quit my job after this semester (even though I really do love it)
  • A dishwasher
  • The Bible
  • My $25 Thrift Store Recliner that is oh so comfy
  • The beautiful morning chorus provided by God's creation
  • Spring is coming!
  • Plenty of food to eat
Some promises to cling to:
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
~2 Timothy 2:13

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

~Psalm 20:6-7

Friday, February 15, 2008

An Oystercatcher and a Pearl

We saw this funny little creature flying about as we sat eating at a sea-side restaurant on Hilton Head Island. Then I saw it, the bird flew up into the air and dropped an oyster to the rocky beach below. It quickly swooped down and gobbled up the contents of the cracked shells. Right away I knew what type of sea bird this was - it was an Oystercatcher. I had learned about these birds in a biology class.

Oystercatchers pick their oysters very carefully. They do not pick little ones because the tiny shells are too difficult to break. By the time the birds fly high enough for the shells to break, it is likely that another bird will slyly dive down and steal the food before the oystercatcher can reach it. It is important that they are patient and wait for the oysters to grow to just the right size.

They do not pick big oysters because they break at about the same height as the medium ones, but are much heavier to carry. By the time it's all said and done, the smart sea birds end up getting the greatest amount of calories for the least amount of effort by searching for the medium-sized oysters. Greediness certainly does not pay off.

It's amazing how God makes all of his animals in such unique ways, with just the abilities they need to survive. And it's amazing how much we can learn from them. It is important that we are persistent, just like the little oystercatchers. We must make sure we search for just the right oyster. We cannot lazily pick the little ones but must be patient for maturation. We must not be greedy either, picking what looks the best (in the worlds eyes), striving to get ahead. Rather, we must seek the good things that God has for us. We must be patient for Him.

This kind of reminds me of the parable of the pearl of great price:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
~Matthew 13:45-46

The merchant took the time to look for the right pearl. He would not settle for lesser pearls, and he did not want pearls that may have been bigger, but were indeed less valuable in the end. He gave his all for what he knew would ultimately be the greatest gain.

Don't settle for less, and don't give up too soon. Give your all for that one special pearl.