31-ish days: Final Post in the Series

Okay, so I was planning to write a big, fat post on how I completely failed at my first attempt to write through a 31-day challenge, since here it is Day 31 and I have not shared one bit of writing in the past week here on this blog. Ugh.

Then, I was looking at the calendar and decided that instead of admitting defeat, I would just sit here at the laptop and pound out 7 posts in a row, which would be the equivalent of the past 7 days, then I’d be all caught up. After all, I have been meaning to sit down and catch up on all the writing I’ve wanted to do. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have the ideas. I’ve literally been carrying around one of my notebooks and jotting down ideas as they come to me. Here’s a picture even! (Some names have been blurred out to protect the somewhat innocent!)

: )  But then I shook off both of those ridiculous ideas and thought to myself, hey, I made it for three weeks! Imperfect, not particularly impressive, but pretty cool nonetheless. I’ve been reading several other ladies’ blogs who took part in this 31 day adventure, and came across so many inspiring thoughts and ideas that I could hardly take it all in. But that’s not the reason that things didn’t finish well here at Pray, Then Learn. I just got crazy busy…CRAZY busy this week. Even though I had a long list of to-do items, including writing, the truth is that I had to do the “must-do’s” first, like the stuff I do to make a living and the stuff that I do that other people count on. Once that was all done, I planned to plop down and write a bit for all of you each day. But the problem was that that “must-do” stuff never was done. So once I ran out of time, I just had to choose sleep as the next thing to cross off (should sleep even be on a to-do list!? I’m sure that’s crazy.)

There are simply only so many hours in a day (much to my dismay sometimes!) but we all do what we can. I definitely will still continue to write. In fact I have some crazy little projects in the works that are turning out to be larger than I even thought they would be. But I don’t mind going slowly…working my way up to something big by taking those baby steps… the same way everything good usually gets done!

In case you’re wondering, here are some tidbits from this past week of my writing absence:

  • I’ve finished some heart wrenching and comprehensive books about human trafficking, and I learned so much from some very brave people right here in my hometown who fight against this craziness here and all over the world. I’m heartbroken and thankful that my eyes have been opened to this monster. Praying to learn how I fit into the fight.
  • Todd and I spent what seemed like way too large of a chunk of time completing our application and requirements for our visas to enter the country of India. Everything was in order and now it’s all shipped off, so we should be straight with the India government here shortly. Amazingly, we’ll be 8000+ miles from home in less than two months. Talk about surreal.
  • The natural gas heat kicked on in our house, which feels great but means my sinuses are doing their annual dry-out-completely thing, which then of course means I’m buying cases of saline spray and tea bags for the winter. Not that exciting of course, but if I’m cranky, it’s 99% likely that it has something to do with that issue.
  • A tiny Indian man is currently driving my car around central Ohio. I am driving the grocery getter. I’m not really into fancy cars or anything, but I’m pretty sure that a mini-van is not “me.” It feels so big and clumsy compared to my cozy little Honda .
  • I have 3 new books to start reading. I’m having trouble deciding which one to start first. It will likely be the new one by John & Stasi Eldredge, since I’m all about the rockin’ marriage. I’ll be sure to share a review when I’m finished.
  • Baked my vegan chocolate cupcakes and made spicy also-vegan chili for our cook-off/auction this past weekend. We raised thousands of dollars to drill wells in India so people could have clean water in the name of Jesus. I love it. LOVE!
  • Fell in love with my husband for the 901,783,478,981,423, 124,674,999th time. *dreamy sigh* [bonus: he is gorgeous!!]
  • Scheduled our next Financial Peace University class (this will be our 6th year facilitating the class!!) for the beginning of 2012, and we’ll be hosting a class preview on November 20th. And no, we don’t get paid for doing that. : )
  • Completed all my grades and entered report cards for the first 9 weeks of school. Hard to believe that the school year is already 25% over! It goes so FAST!!
  • Experienced some incredible and very convicting messages at church the past few weeks. I’m so thankful for the gift of teaching that God has given our pastor.
  • Have a list of scriptures that I’ll be praying through, meditating on, and trying to unpack in preparation for my trip to India. I can’t wait to meet my girl Donna and spend some time enjoying the company there. I like being somewhere that makes me the minority sometimes.

I’m sure there’s more that I’m just not thinking of, and I’m sure I’ll even write more about these things later, but there’s a little snapshot for ya. One more thing…probably the weirdest thing of all…. I actually had the thought this week that it’s possible that someone, somewhere may be feeling a bit disappointed by me not writing this past week. If that’s you, thanks a lot. It’s cool to know that someone was following this almost-31-days close enough to miss it when it was gone. Very fun thought.

So, not feeling defeated nor particularly enthralled, I’m headed to bed not sure exactly when my next opportunity to write may be, but knowing that the next thing I’m going to write about is already brewing. : )

Moments, Day 24: I Just Don’t Believe That…

Recently we were talking with a couple who is engaged and wanting some help smoothing out some relationship bumps before tying the knot. They are both Christians and want to start their marriage out with God at the center. They’ve also been living together for quite some time.

So in addition to the normal how-to-have-a-rockin’-marriage advice, we had to address that one teensy little detail about them shacking up. So…we suggested that if there was no way that they could physically live at separate addresses, they should at least transition to two different bedrooms and commit to abstain from all physical intimacy until they were married.

That didn’t go over so well. Even though these folks said they wanted to put God first in their marriage, they went on to tell us that they “just didn’t believe in that” and even though the bible said that they should be waiting on that part of their relationship, they felt that it wasn’t something they could change.

We were confused.

Yes, it’s tough. Especially if you’ve been used to doing something a certain way and then you have to do it a different way, maybe even do something (or do without something) that makes the overall dynamic of your life look and feel very different. But if you want to line up with the abundant life that God has already put in place for you, there are always going to be some things that have to change.

As I thought about this, I came to the conclusion that there’s a whole lot more going on than just a couple of young horny folks who say they can’t control themselves. That’s nothing new in this world. The problem here was that they had tried to justify their actions by re-stating their “belief system” to allow for the provision of whatever they want in that particular arena. It’s the old “I believe in God, but…” argument.

But what’s really going on here is that this young man and woman (and all of us from time to time) have a wrong view of God. Instead of understanding that He is all-knowing, perfectly-loving, and vastly generous, and therefore would only give us those things that are the very best for us, we decide to believe that there’s something really awesome out there that God is just trying to keep us from. He never lets us have any fun, dang it. When it comes right down to it, it’s a trust issue.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.

Just like our sister Eve, we’ve been tricked into feeling like we can’t trust God for the very best. She and Adam had everything. EVERYTHING. Their life literally was perfection, and they enjoyed the constant intimate connection with God that we all long for today. It was already there for them. God had made everything and had given them everything for their pleasure. There was one thing He asked them to avoid. That’s it. Just one thing. What did the Deceiver focus on? That one thing. He actually twisted God’s words into making it sound like a totally different situation. He made it sound like God was mean, and that He was trying to keep something from us.  God was trying to keep us from something, alright, but it wasn’t something good. It was something destructive. It was the knowledge and experience of sin in our lives.

Now we know a whole lot about that, don’t we? Sin is a regular part of our everyday lives that we have to work against. And we have that distrusting view of God…like He’s some grumpy old grandpa who is irritated at the slightest thought of us having any fun. But when you’ve reached that point of having a right view of God’s incredible love for you, you’ll realize that He really does know the plans He has for you, and that in asking for our obedience,  He is not keeping something good from us, but rather keeping the best of the best for us.

How about you? When was a time in your life that you sacrificed the best in your life for something that you just thought was good? Or did you have the opportunity to put aside something that seemed good at the time in order to wait for God’s very best?

Moments, Day 23: Blessed

So incredibly overwhelmed at God’s great love for me and the beautiful life He has given me. There is so much in this world that I do not understand and cannot fathom sometimes. But I do get that He created me with a purpose in mind… A to-do list to accomplish that simply is for no one else. An influence all my own. A group of people spread throughout this world that I am meant to encourage, give hope to, point toward Him. I have been given much, so much is required. And at the same time I in no way have to strive to exhaust my own energy in order to accomplish these things. He has also given me all that is needed with which to do these works, and an endless supply of His strength and wisdom upon which to draw whenever I need. This, my friends, is love.

Moments, Day 22: Cool Convergence

Just a SUPER quick post to mention how insanely cool I think God is! He takes such  tiny little things and makes them converge in a way that SO tells me He wants to show me something and have me really get it. I love when He does that stuff. CA-Razy. Here’s what I’m talkin about:

Happy Report: The blog that I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the whole Board-of-Directors thing has been found!! Now I can properly link to the post I was talking about so you can read this writer’s brilliance for yourself. Here’s the original post, over at Simple Mom. I feel much better being able to give credit where credit is due! It was driving me crazy not to be able to link you back there. Thanks to Simple Mom for the amazing idea of the Board of Directors. That was ALL her… I love it!

Along that same line…we had home group the other night and my hunky husband decided to share one of his devos from this week… it was about Exodus 17 where Israel is battling the Amalekites. Moses stood on a hill and held out the staff of God,  which showed God’s presence among His people. As long as Moses did this, they were victorious. But after a while Moses’s arms got tired, and they began to lower. So what happened??

  12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

How awesome that Moses had such good friends/family that he could count on them to hold up his arms when he got weak! Much more on this another time…but for now I just want to reiterate that we are made for relationships…Moses  had his peeps, and we certainly need ours to hold up our arms when we need a boost. Victory will be the result.

Lastly, I read a verse of the day that I read as a regular part of my bible time, and guess what it was??

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2

AWE-SOME. Definitely more to come on this and maybe even the whole book of Galatians…we’ll see how that all lines up.

Much love to you!

PS: 60 days until India!

Moments, Day 21: Board of Directors.

I am just kicking myself for not paying better attention to where I’m going when I read a blog that I linked through from a blog I found, by clicking through some other blog I love to read. Usually it’s no biggie, because eventually I’ll find it again. Unless of course I’m looking for it specifically so I can link back to it when I refer to it in one of my posts. Such is the case today.

So I read this awesome post yesterday, which I believe was titled “Board of Directors” (I already googled it, didn’t find what I was looking for.) A writer/speaker was talking about how she met for lunch with a group of lady friends who, along with her, would be speaking at an upcoming women’s conference. During their lunch conversation they got to talking about how their lives were super busy with all the writing, speaking, traveling, and general living (you know, like raising kids and being married and cooking and cleaning and worshiping God and stuff) they had to fit into that same 24 hours that we all get. One of them (I think it was the author) said how she was kind of starting to get the feeling that all the opportunities that her writing had brought her (traveling to speak, etc..) was actually starting to hinder those other important areas of her life. She seemed to give off the feeling that she was needing to say “no” to some stuff in order to keep her priorities in check.

So the group of ladies started talking about how they needed a personal board of directors to help them making important decisions like which book deals to take and which speaking engagements to accept or decline. Some folks who knew enough and cared enough about each of them to say the hardest word that many of us ever have to say…no. That way, those good-but-just-short-of-the-best items never make their way onto their calendars or to-do lists for them to fret over. Yep, it sure would be nice to have a Board of Directors that you could take that stuff to in order to help you make important decisions.

Then, the author shared, the ladies realized that they didn’t have to be the CEO of some multi-gazillion-dollar corporation…they could have a board of directors, right there in the middle of their crazy, everyday lives. In fact, they realized that in being close friends who cared about one another and shared some of the same life aspects, they could be each other’s board of directors. What a cool thought!

I was thinking that I certainly do have a wonderful group of close friends that I could call on to be my Board of Directors. As a  matter of fact, they kind of already are and they may not even know it. I suppose they were chosen for the task just by being so important to me. I naturally run decisions by them and talk about my fears and screw-ups and share the cool parts of my day-to-day operation. They give opinions, share stories, and give feedback (without ever even getting paid for it!) It was cool to think that I already have that Board of Directors in place in my life.

I bet if we all thought about it for a moment, most of us probably already have a Board. Maybe you have a dozen members on yours. Maybe it’s only one member for the time being. Think. Really think about it. If you cannot even think of one person that you have this type of relationship with, then may I lovingly challenge you to ask yourself…why not? Is there something keeping you from making these friendships? Or do you have several friends but something has just kept you from growing close enough to anyone to feel comfortable sharing your life’s details with? Whatever the situation, ask God to reveal to you the reason behind your lack of friend-relationships. He made you for relationship, which is the primary way that we give and receive His love. In relationships with friends, we give and receive phileo  love, which is the Greek word for the fondness that we feel toward someone who we simply enjoy being around, someone we are kindred spirits with, and who energizes us with their presence.  Think of Philadelphia…the city of brotherly love.

Who are you getting your phileo from these days? Who is helping you make the big decisions? Who is syncing your calendar and keeping it prioritized in the right way?

Moments, Day 20: Off the Wagon

Well today I fell a bit off the leave-school-by-5:00-every-night-no-matter-what wagon. I know…I know!!

About this same time every year (and again right when school resumes after Christmas break) I tend to get this feeling. This terrible, awful feeling. I have named it the drowning feeling. It literally feels like my chest is being pressed on with a heavy anvil. I feel like I can’t take a completely deep breath. I literally feel like I am drowning.

Multiple deadlines, kids with learning problems, overinvolved parents, parents who don’t give a rip about their kid, upcoming conferences, keeping organized records, remembering all the changes with buses and medical issues and whose grandmother died last weekend and what birthdays are coming up, creating lessons, making copies, trying to do something halfway creative and fun in between all the ludicrous assessments and such. And the papers. OH, the PAPERS!! If I never saw another piece of paper in my life I would be perfectly fine with that. Teachers have WAY too many papers. UGH.

I wonder sometimes if I’m having an anxiety attack when I have the drowning feeling. I’m not really sure, but I know that when the feeling comes over me, it means I have some catching up to do. And I simply must do it. So the other night when I was supposed to leave right after school, I walked into my room after a meeting and saw it. Stuff. Everywhere. EVERY-WHERE. Then I remembered some upcoming deadlines I needed to meet. And a bunch of papers that need grading. And those report cards that have to be entered and updated and corrected. And not to mention I didn’t yet have a single thing prepared for the following week.

There’s the drowning…..

So instead of coming right home I called Todd and told him that I was having that feeling again so I just had to stay and get a little bit of stuff accomplished or I may very well bring that feeling home with me for the weekend. He  mercifully didn’t even act annoyed. I know when he hears it in my voice, there’s just no way around it. So I stayed and I got several things done. I felt better. A little. Sigh.

You know what?  I realized later that I didn’t do the one thing I should have done…pray. Whenever I get anxious about anything in my life, I take a second and ask God to calm me and refocus me and help me get whatever business done that I need to get done. And He always comes through for me. So why is it that when it comes to my work, I forget to do that very important thing?? Hmmmm.

Even though I fell off the wagon, I plan to climb right back on. I can’t promise I’ll be perfect from here on out, but at least I am giving it a try. And I’m really enjoying the moments I’m not missing now that I’ve started reprioritizing my life. So when things don’t go right, I’m going to remind myself to just stop,  pray, and learn to get back on the wagon.

Moments, Day 19: The Biggest Conversation

My beloved friend Mary sent me this a few days ago. I’ve been wanting to write about it ever since, but it’s kind of hard to even process for me right now. I’m sorry that I don’t have the original source to refer to right off hand…somehow I think I’ll probably be forgiven. Give this puppy a read:

Jesus our Lord summons us to holiness, humility, simplicity and contentment. He also promises us his rest. We confess, however, that we have often allowed unholy desires to disturb our inner tranquility. So without the constant renewal of Christ’s peace in our hearts, our emphasis on simple living will be one-sided.
Our Christian obedience demands a simple life-style, irrespective of the needs of others. Nevertheless, the facts that 800 million people are destitute and that 10,000 die of starvation every day make any other life-style indefensible.
While some of us have been called to live among the poor, and others to open our homes to the needy, all of us are determined to develop a simpler life-style. We intend to reexamine our income and expenditure, in order to manage on less and give away more. We lay down no rules or regulations, for either ourselves or others. Yet we resolve to renounce waste and oppose extravagance in personal living, clothing and housing, travel and church buildings. We also accept the distinction between necessities and luxuries, creative hobbies and empty status symbols, modesty and vanity, occasional celebrations and normal routine, and between the service of God and slavery to fashion. Where to draw the line requires conscientious thought and decision by us, together with members of our family. Those of us who belong to the West need the help of our Third World brothers and sisters in evaluating our standards of spending. Those of us who live in the Third World acknowledge that we too are exposed to the temptation to covetousness. So we need each other’s understanding, encouragement and prayers.

Wow. Mary and I have had this nearly-two-year-long conversation going about what it means and looks like to live simply and generously in a culture of comfort and excess. We know that the simple posture of our hearts makes the difference, but we’ve been searching for that practical application and have so far not settled on an answer that satisfies either of us fully. I have a feeling that we both think the whole “well, God knows you have a generous heart” answer seems a little dry and cop-out-ish to us both. So we’re wondering how God can use us and show us these details of life while we’re at the same time skewed in the direction of our crazy culture. We’re wondering how God can use us to bless others in a way that is sacrificial, a little (or a lot!??) uncomfortable, and just say to Him: Whatever You want, Lord. (And mean it.)

This passage above sums everything up in just about the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an answer. Any thoughts about this? Please share. I’ll try to dissect parts of this to write on later. But this moment is dedicated to the sheer awe I felt at how wonderfully my heart has been articulated in this agreement. Now, for the courage to live it out…