2015 Goals: February Progress

Goals for 2015: Progress ReportFebruary flew by me. We had a week of being confined to our house, courtesy of some extreme (for our region) winter weather. Pilot worked extra during this week, so I am taking that into consideration as I look at the progress…or lack thereof… towards my goals for 2015:

Bible: One book per month, plus one chapter in Psalms, corresponding day in Proverbs. I read through 1 and 2 Timothy… twice… in the month of February. It fit well with some of the non-Bible books I was reading, kind of like lesson reinforcement. Book for March: Isaiah.

Reading: a book by Elisabeth Elliot. a book on relationships (marriage or parenting). a Christian living book. a business book or a “fun”/miscellaneous book. 4 total per month. I finally finished Trusting God in a Twisted World  by Elisabeth Elliot and started on the next one (Love has a Price Tag ), but I did accomplish each of the other categories. To date, I have finished 13 books with 5 in progress.

Marriage: Weekly love letters. Once. I wrote one. Need to up the ante on this one!
Weekly board/card game.  We played Monopoly Deal and Mexican Train. One time we opted to watch a financial video together instead… and another time, we just plain forgot about the game. The habit is taking time, for sure.

Littles: Verses. Buddy has nailed Romans 7:71 and Galatians 2:21. He is working on Romans 6:21 and will be moving on to Romans 5:8 soon!
Reading aloud.  We’re still working on Little House in the Prairie.  It is taking a little extra time to get through, but he really enjoyed listening to how Pa built their prairie house. I love reading aloud with him.
Develop a chore/”helper” list of tasks for Buddy.  I made a “work list” with 9 pictures for Buddy. He thrives with that thing. Multiple times a day, he asks me to “do work” from his list. The items pictured represent: getting the mail, dishwasher (loading/unloading/putting in the soap), laundry (loading washer/dryer, sorting socks), clean up toys, put away books, do Scripture memory, help cook (mainly stirring scrambled eggs with Daddy on Sunday mornings), vacuum, and trash (he helps carry items to the trash and puts the new trash bag in the can). I am looking at developing a “morning routine” chart for the things he needs to do on a daily basis. SUPER success!
Keep up with Trooper.  So far, so good!

Writing: Post 3 times a week.  Success!
Journal.  Just write. Accomplished. I journaled a lot more in February than I did in January.
Gratitude journal.  Still counting!
Work on one major/more intensive writing project.  In the works.

Financial: Pay for Multi-enginepaid!
Officially begin debt snowball (and record progress). Pay off first loan.  We will make our first above-minimums payment in March!

Craft Stash Christmas: No progress made. 2 done (from January), 22 to go.

How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

{image by ba1969}

Gratitude Project Progress

Progress being made in my 2015 Gratitude Project!Last month, I introduced you to my 2015 Gratitude Project. 5 hand-written thank-yous per week, 52 weeks. That’s 260 thank-you notes by the end of the year. Just as counting gifts in 2014 revolutionized my perspective on big things and little things to be thankful for, learning gratitude for the hard things, and becoming a grateful receiver, I’m already learning so much through this project.

Initially, I had planned to post progress reports every 2-3 months rather than monthly. What on earth will I write about each month?  I thought. But as with any opportunity to learn, the Lord is refining my vision for who needs to receive my gratitude. I mentioned I would be focusing on those who provide excellent service but are often overlooked by society. I didn’t have to look far.

I never considered writing these people a thank-you note… until now:

  • the nurse who administered Trooper’s shots. She had such a teacher’s heart and a listening ear as we voiced our concerns and desires. She took our thoughts into consideration and responded accordingly.
  • the author of a book that had really impacted the way we think. As an author myself, I sometimes wonder if all the time and effort I spent writing was worth the time I spent away from my family or if I should’ve been focused on other endeavors. Hearing how the book has encouraged readers reminds me that my obedience in writing is for God’s glory, not my own.
  • the publishing house who published that book. Publishing companies receive a ton  of book proposals each year. While I’m sure each company has its own way to weed through the riffraff, I wanted to thank them for publishing this book — even if it wasn’t a bestseller for them.
  • our CPA. He was kind to meet with us in December (without charging us) to help me understand what paperwork I needed to gather. I understand his time is extremely valuable, and I wanted him to know we appreciated his help this year.
  • the chiropractor who worked with me to turn Trooper. After Trooper was born, I fell off the grid for her. I’m sure she wondered how the story had unfolded. I went back around 6 weeks after his birth to have my coccyx (tailbone) put back in place — apparently it had been dislocated in the birth process {I didn’t even know that could happen!}. I wanted to reach out to her again and thank her for her care as we tried to help Trooper enter the world head-down.
  • Pilot’s Director of Operations. When Pilot was first hired almost 5 years ago, his current DO was the store manager. I thanked him for hiring Pilot; Pilot enjoys his job and the ability to be home with the boys (and me) during the day.

If I was any of these people, I could see how the rigamarole of sameness day in and day out could wear them down. Is anyone  ever grateful for their services? Sure, they may have received spoken gratitude, but the impact of that can fade on the hard days. Written gratitude, though, is less transient. More permanent. A reminder that someone  values their service, that someone  has benefited from knowing or interacting with them.

And so I press on, eager to see who God points out for gratitude that I never saw before. Thanks for helping keep me accountable!

{image by christgr}

Take My Intellect

Each Monday, we look at a line from the old hymn  Take My Life and Let it Be. Let’s see how we can apply the next line.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.

Looking at a familiar classic hymn and how to apply one line in our daily lives... one week at a time.Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Being homeschooled in a state without strict regulations, my mom didn’t track my grades until 8th grade. {gasp!} That was the year we practiced keeping a running tally of my grades, because it would be kind of necessary in high school. Something  must be put on my transcript… and an accurate GPA helped with scholarship applications.

I wish I could say that those years of not counting my grades helped prepare me to not care in high school and college. It didn’t. My sister taught me how to calculate the exact grade I would need on a final exam to get the overall grade I wanted… and I did it with every class I took. {It helped me know how hard I needed to study.}

But then there was the class sophomore year that rocked my world. Introduction to Deaf Education. It was one of my favorite courses not taught by my interpreting professors, and I learned so very much from that class. When I took the final exam, I wasn’t sure what my standing grade was beforehand because a few assignments were still waiting to be graded. Then, when grades were released after finals week, I was crushed. I missed my self-imposed mark of greatness — by one point. I contacted the professor and attempted to dialogue about it, which was met with resistance and I ended up accepting the grade.

In that moment, God broke me. I had tied my identity to the letters on my grade report, even though I had no intentions of pursuing a Master’s degree. Who would ever see those letters? Who would care? Was it really that  important to me?

I stepped back from the situation and came to the realization that I had gained much more from the class than the letter said I did. In other classes, I passed with flying colors, but I walked away from them without being changed or applying what I had learned. Which was more valuable — a higher GPA or an opportunity to learn from others?

The rest of my college career I probably seemed aloof to my classmates. I could no longer engage in the grade race, and I couldn’t participate in the upheaval that surrounded our Linguistics II class. I loved the challenge of that class because I had determined that my grade would not define me.

It’s a lesson that has stuck with me since. I look at my momma friends who have no college degree but thrive on learning new things and seeking to grow… I look at them and see ladies who are using “every power as Thou shalt choose,” because they are learning to care for their home or deepen their walk with Christ or invest in their marriage. There’s no expensive piece of paper hanging on their wall, but they pursue their King with great abandon.

Our educational system prepares us to compare our performance with our peers. To determine one’s value based on that performance. To hold high the letter grade over the knowledge gained. This contradicts the Path of Obedience we are commanded to walk.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10

I want my intellect to be rooted in God’s Word. I want my discussions to focus on Him and how XYZ lines up with Scripture or how the world’s mode of operation opposes God’s design. Maybe someday I will pursue a Master’s degree — maybe I won’t. Either way, I want Him to direct my studies. May they begin and end with His inerrant Word.

How do you struggle to relinquish every intellect to His design?

Books I’ve Been Reading {February}

Come take a look at the books I've been reading... and share some of your current to-read list, too!My pace has slowed a bit, at least it feels that way to me. I suppose I’m over most of the “New year, new goals” excitement. I haven’t lost all momentum. I’m definitely still making progress, just not as aggressively as I expected. At this point, I should be finishing up my 8th book to work towards my goal of 48. I’m slightly beyond that… Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading this month:

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys
Goodreads recommended this book to me, and I found it at our local library last week. I’ve started reading it a little, and it seems to be an easy, quick read (even though it comprises 298 pages…). Being a momma of 2 boys, I like picking up books that remind me boys are different and give me some ideas for helping them be who God created them to be.

Visionary Parenting
We highly recommend this book if your family is exploring the family discipleship/parents-as-primary-disciplers model. Sometimes we don’t know where to start or if we are doing what we need to be doing. This book encouraged us in what we are  doing and gave us ideas for continuing on as we raise our children to obey Christ.

Trusting God in a Twisted World
As per usual, Elisabeth Elliot writes with depth and  brevity. This is a collection of thoughts and essays, something akin to a modern blog, that I had to read one or two at a time because they were always followed by intense pondering.

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
I read this book at just the right time. I was burnt out on meal planning and how the cost of groceries continues to rise. The very beginning of the book challenged me to attempt a one-month meal plan, which I completed. We used up some of our stockpile that often sits on the shelves or gets lost in the deep, dark freezer, so it helped us better steward what we already have as well. A lot of this book was things I already knew, but I still picked up some great money-saving tips!

Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom
Sufficient. God’s Word is not only true, it is sufficient for our daily lives. I also learned more about jurisdiction — how God has given specific commands to individuals, families, and the local church. When we operate within those jurisdictions and don’t overstep our bounds, the Kingdom expands as the Gospel flourishes. A Must Read!

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode
MoneySavingMom.com’s Crystal Paine got me hooked on couponing back in the day… 7 years ago. She writes with grace to readers, but also prompts them to action. Pilot laughed when I picked up this book; it seemed to fit well the season I was coming out of. As a result of encouragement from this book, I have shifted my sleep pattern to one that benefits my family, myself, and our goals much better.

Because I Said So!
Remember when Ken Jennings won something like a billion rounds of Jeopardy a few years back? He wrote this book to debunk 125 myths that are passed down as “wisdom.” Like, the 5 second rule. Don’t pick at scabs. Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay that way. Turn lights on; you’ll strain your eyes. I listened to this one, and it was interesting, but there were a couple expletives in it. {Why??}

Growing Up Duggar
Having read their mom’s books 20 and Counting! and A Love that Multiplies, I was pretty eager to read this book from Jana, Jill, Jessa & Jinger Duggar’s perspectives. Their faith has challenged mine! I borrowed this book from the library, but I would like to purchase a copy to own for future reference.

Jesus>Religion
I didn’t really know what to expect with this book. I’ve seen Jefferson Bethke floating around Twitter, but I couldn’t recall if this was a “worth my time” book or not. It’s definitely written by someone from my generation. While there is much Scripturally accurate content, I did locate some post-modernist views that did not jive with the sufficiency of Scripture {see above, Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom }. I’m thankful I listened to this book at the same time I was reading LCUK so I was more aware of what I heard. I can’t recommend this book.

Next on the List:

Buying a House Debt-Free: Equipping Your Son
I found this book thanks to a recent post at Stacy Makes Cents. Because we hope to purchase a home with no debt, I decided to purchase this book and see how the authors would encourage parents to train and lead their sons to buy a home with no debt. The authors have 3 sons who purchased their first homes without a mortgage before the age of 30. Unheard of? Yeah, until you read this book.

Strong Mothers, Strong Sons
Considering that Boys Should Be Boys (by the same author) is my #1 recommendation for how-to-parent-boys, I am eager to see what Dr. Meg Meeker has to say in this book. It’s significantly thicker than BSBB, so I’m expecting it to take me the better part of a month to read.

Love Has a Price Tag
Gotta get started on the next Elisabeth Elliot book! I’ve read most of this book previously, but I can’t recall any specifics from it. Time to start anew — and finish it this time.

Reading Aloud with Buddy:

Little House in the Big Woods
After reading just a couple chapters, Buddy started asking (out of the blue), “Momma, please read In Little House in Big Woods!” He would hear something he has experienced or knew something about and stop me to talk about it — making pictures in the snow, bears, going to town.

Little House on the Prairie
We started this book, and Buddy was instantly mesmerized. It doesn’t take long before Pa and Ma are crossing a river! We’ve still got a long way to go before this one is done, but it’s a fun together read.

What Pilot’s been listening to:

Eragon
Pilot reported that the book is nothing like the movie…and the two shouldn’t even be compared. The depth of detail in the book is phenomenal.

 

Eldest
Well, once he finished the first one, he eagerly moved on to the next. (That’s a good sign, right?)

 

Brisingr
Third in the Eragon series.

 

Inheritance
Yes, he has enjoyed this series so thoroughly that he went through all 4 of them in rapid succession. I think I’ll be looking to add the series to a middle school reading list in a few years — Pilot said it was excellent.

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
If you know Pilot, you know he has an analytical mind. His college minor is in Physics, and he enjoys “random” information. From what he said, this is basically a list of questions you may be asked in an interview for Google or other similar technology companies… and he did pretty well with most of his answers. (The end of the book has an “answers” section.)

Hop over to Facebook, drop me a line on Twitter, or comment with what you’ve been reading of late. I’m always looking for a good book to add to my ever-increasing to-read list!

This post includes affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.

Be Where Your Feet Are

Our church’s focus in 2015 is “Witness: Be Where Your Feet Are.” You might also call this the theme. I wear a small black bracelet (the plastic kind Lance Armstrong made popular all those years ago with his LiveStrong slogan) that has the word “Witness” and two footprints on it as a regular reminder to embrace the moment and keep my eyes open for ordinary opportunities to serve.

This month I’ve been working on pursuing community with a few ladies at church. I prefer smaller group settings, so I initiated plans with each of them to meet sometime, somewhere during the week. And then I followed through.

I’ll be honest — spending time with others is my receiving love language, but somehow it also exhausts me. Up until this point, I have been hesitant to disrupt my routine. But, try as I may, there is never enough time on Sundays to ask all the questions or hear all the stories, so a separate time became necessary. Pilot was gracious to keep Buddy so I didn’t have a 2 year old to corral while learning about these ladies. Surprisingly, as each interaction concluded, I walked away energized, not exhausted. Encouraged, not discouraged. Inspired, not put down. And I thought to myself,

This. This is the community I have been longing for.

In my tightly woven cocoon of safety and security, I had surely kept myself warm. But did God create me to stay warm? Did He gift me with abilities to benefit only my family? Did He walk with me through so many valleys only to grow me and not to jumpstart the compassion that should flow through me to others? The very wall I had erected to keep my heart at home had also served to prevent any intentional community building. The very thing I longed for was stifled by my own doing.

I’m learning, learning to be where my feet are. Reaching out to women around me. Speaking a word “in season.” Encouraging another mom to do what is best for her family in light of God’s Word. Forging a distance community to edify those still waiting and watching for local community. Ministering grace to others, and thereby receiving a greater Portion than I could ever orchestrate on my own.

image

Wanna join us? It’s simple. Grab a journal and start writing. What are you thankful for in this moment? What have you overlooked that He has graciously given you? Then once a month in 2015, join me as we revel –together– in His mercies! If you have a blog, I’d love for you to leave your link. If you don’t, feel free to leave your list in the comments!

Mercies since January 2014: 1699. Take a look at this week’s list:
1554. a 2 year old who invites me to join his “woodworking” and wear his safety glasses
1555. Pilot taking Buddy outside for 20 minutes before leaving for work {after being gone most of the day}
1556. time to read… and brush my hair
1558. a boy who discovers the boat and the tree in his half-eaten French toast
1559. the pride of a 2 year old spreading peanut butter “all by ‘elf!”
1560. finding out Pilot has a rare 3 day weekend with enough advance notice to plan a day trip
1561. completing EVERY item on our to-do list this week!
1562. leftover soup that can be reheated easily
1563. time to get caught up on overdue letters
1564. bread that flopped still being delicioius
1565. snuggles with Trooper
1567. Chick-fil-A reducing the price of my chicken, egg, and cheese bagel when I asked for no cheese
1568. planning to stop for gas — and Trooper having a blow out just as we got off the interstate
1569. Buddy’s excitement about the museum
1570. Pilot sacrificially foregoing seeing an IMAX movie about D-Day while at the museum {for the good of our family and the sanity of us both}
1571. using the rest of a giftcard that Pilot won last spring
1572. Buddy going all day with no accidents while we were out
1574. a church that cherishes children and takes seriously their commitment to come alongside parents for the sake of the Gospel
1576. finalizing/reconciling as much as possible
1577. time to prep another blog post while Trooper slept and Pilot got up with Buddy
1578. a day at home
1579. Pilot’s new flight instructor accommodating his desire to wait until March to fly
1580. a delicious butternut soup recipe
1581. 3 lbs. of apples for $1/bag and 8 bell peppers for $2.25
1583. replacing our love seat with a 3 seat micro suede couch our neighbors were disposing of
1584. leftovers that taste better than freshly made
1585. Trooper sleeping about an hour in his pack n play after I woke up
1586. Elisabeth Elliot and her depth of writing
1587. Pilot figuring out an insurance issue before it became a real problem
1588. an amiable nurse practitioner
1590. Trooper weighs 17 lbs. 13 oz. and is 24 1/2 inches long!
1591. a long nap for both boys
1592. arriving at the CPA 20 mins early {with both boys in tow}
1594. Adventures in Odyssey – and Buddy’s eagerness to listen
1595. using up leftover noodles before they went bad
1597. falling asleep by 9:30pm
1598. 2am “date” with Pilot over breadsticks
1599. waking up at 4am and writing 4 blogposts before Buddy woke up
1601. Pilot’s willingness to eat something he wouldn’t have touched 4 years ago
1603. time to focus on the Gratitude Project
1604. Trooper sleeping in til 8 so I could spend some one-on-one time with Buddy
1605. Pilot locating my favorite pen
1606. a weekly game night with Pilot to anticipate
1607. 10 hours of sleep last night
1609. encouragement to “be where your feet are” in the context of my family
1610. leaving church later than usual and being accosted {in the best of ways} by another mom who chose to nurse her toddler and just found out she’s expecting
1611. exchanging phone numbers with her and then setting up a time to meet
1612. Trooper sleeping well in his pack n play so I could spend one-on-one time with Buddy
1613. potty training progress!
1614. Pilot having the opportunity to devise a more efficient way to cut pizzas during the Super Bowl madness
1616. Pilot getting home at 11 and being able to sleep 9+ hours
1617. extra $ this month to replace my bulk order of coconut oil after it meet its demise
1620. laughter induced by a 2 year old’s antics
1621. days Pilot doesn’t work
1622. more potty training progress!
1623. 2 1/2 hours of work and writing before Buddy woke up
1624. that each day ends and a new day begins
1625. being on both sides of the vaccine debate in my life and understanding the parental dilemma
1626. a marvelously productive day
1627. a 3 month old who sleeps well at night when he has rough days
1628. enough sleep PLUS writing one post before Buddy woke up
1629. that Pilot is the primary disciplinarian when he is home
1630. reminder form an old post that we need to focus on vision
1631. finding tax paperwork that needs to be submitted {stuck in a random stack I want planning on looking at again}
1632. making pigs in a blanket with Buddy’s help
1633. big plans for tomorrow
1634. a nurse at the health dept. who had a helper/teaching spirit rather than that of condescension
1635. Buddy using a whisper in the library
1637. books that reminds me how boys think and operate so I can assist to their needs instead of parenting by the Golden Rule
1638. waking up to find a clean bathroom sink
1639. learning another way I can help my husband
1640. a pleasant morning of anticipation and preparation
1641. an hour and a half of mom-to-mom fellowship
1642. an unexpected gift card from an aunt and uncle
1643. a text from my sis-in-law telling about nieces & nephews’ reactions to me being an author
1644. a husband who has a sense of humor that does not humiliate our cut others down
1645. a home filled with laughter
1646. that Buddy took a nap after 3 days of refusing naps
1647. a day warm enough for the 3 of us to go out for 45 mins. after Pilot went to work
1648. the first official tent built in our living room
1650. not rushing our the door for worship
1651. time to connect at church
1652. the Holy Spirit’s challenge to find a Bible Fellowship Group where we can give, not get
1654. very low gas prices
1655. the opportunity for Pilot to donate plasma
1656. Buddy learning to listen as he helped me with apple cake
1657. Buddy drawing “animals go in barn,” a reference to Little House from the evening before
1658. receiving TWO letters in the mail
1659. a good check-up with the cardiologist
1660. accomplishing Christmas crafts on the drive to/from worship
1661. Pilot taking us our for Chinese after the appointment
1662. Buddy’s squeals of delight when feeding the koi at the Chinese buffet
1663. a quarter well spent
1664. Pilot putting Buddy to sleep so Trooper could get more sleep
1666. thorough and probing discussion about the doctrine of jurisdiction
1668. meeting a friend at Barnes & Noble — and two hours flying by!
1669. community, even if a little “late”
1671. connecting with other moms after a hard two years
1672. starting Little House on the Prairie with Buddy and discussing territories and wagons
1673. smiles and funny faces in the mirror with Trooper
1674. brownie from Pilot’s work to add to our oatmeal
1675. that I did not stay up late last night {since Buddy decided to awaken at 4:30}
1676. an afternoon visit with Mrs. Betty
1677. a flashlight for writing a letter
1678. Trooper’s midnight squawk, usually indicating a wet diaper
1679. that he usually sleeps through the resulting diaper change
1681. oatmeal – a nourishing budget stretcher
1682. Pilot modeling repentance
1683. a new library branch to explore
1684. books placed on hold for mommas who can’t browse the shelves of adult books
1688. patience
1689. tuition is PAID OFF!
1690. biscuits and gravy when we had milk going bad
1691.Trooper’s reduction in spit up
1692. an unexpected package in the mail from my grandma
1693. snow on Valentine’s Day and B1G1 Dairy Queen Blizzards
1694. Pilot surprising me with lavender roses
1695. encouragement from Growing Up Duggar
1696. Trooper’s contentment with staying at the shower curtain
1697. almost finishing the laundry
1698. that St.Valentine obeyed God rather than man

Do you tweet? Keep up with what’s going on and join in the fun with the hashtag #neweverymorning!
 
Sarah Jo at Paper-Bark Burch publishes her mercy recounting each Thursday, so be sure to check her posts. Oh, and please leave your link in the comments!

Take My Silver and Gold

Each Monday, we look at a line from the old hymn  Take My Life and Let it Be. Let’s see how we can apply the next line.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.

A dangerous thing to say, but required for those who want to be fully consecrated to the Lord. The next line in the classic hymn, Take My Life and Let it Be.Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.

Modern currency in the U.S. is neither silver nor gold, but it is a means of trade. It has some value, albeit fluctuating in correlation to the current economic climate. I can use it to purchase many of our physical needs as well as wants. I can hoard it, I can disdain it, or I can steward it.

My sinful default is to use it frivolously – whether that means, in some seasons, to save up an exorbitant amount or, in other seasons, to spend without much care. When I learned how to categorize and thus interact with wealth, money, and riches {because they are Biblically not synonymous}, I began to understand why money handling requires caution and determination.

Money itself is neutral.  The pieces of metal or paper we use for the purpose of trade have no specific spiritual connection at the outset. The goal and focus of the user determines whether that money is serving God or mammon (Matt. 6:24).

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:10

Pilot and I habitually give our tithe each Sunday; that’s been engrained in both of us. It’s not up for debate. It just gets done. All of my silver and my gold, though? If God asked me to sacrifice wealth (assets such as a house, land, etc that we hope to own outright someday), my flesh would struggle. But if I ask God to take my life and let it be consecrated to Him, that includes my possessions — the possessions He has given me to steward. If my heart is not with Lord primarily, I need  Him to take my silver and my gold. I do not want my loyalty to be a mockery of my God.

The Sanctity of the Union

image by fodor via freeimages.com

Tomorrow represents a controversial holiday. Some people go all out in the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Others do nothing special on the reasoning that if they aren’t saying “I love you” at any other time, there are larger issues. It’s become a commercialized holiday anyway, some say. Many wedding anniversaries will be celebrated. But the controversy has escalated this year. In January, the Supreme Court announced it will hear 4 cases where same-sex marriages conflict with state amendments concerning the definition of marriage.

People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. –Edmund Burke

I can’t say the decision surprises me. In fact, it sounds similar to why Valentine’s Day became a holiday in the first place. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s a the micro-version:

St. Valentine lived under Roman emperor Claudius the Cruel’s reign. Claudius was under the impression that the reason men were not readily joining his military was because of their strong devotion to their family. Unfortunately, as a result of this, Claudius banned marriage. (History.com)

Marriage is prohibited.  Can you even comprehend an empire surviving such an edict?

However, in the midst of this trying time, a certain priest by the name of Valentine continued to perform marriage ceremonies–in secret. He understood that God initiated the institution of marriage, and he was willing to stand against the legal mandate in order to honor and obey God.

When his actions came to light he was arrested, dragged to court, and condemned. His punishment? To be beaten to death with clubs and beheaded.  This gruesome death took place February 14, on/around 270 A.D.

…you mean we celebrate St. Valentine’s death each year?

Perhaps “commemorate” would be a more applicable word. Valentine’s choices aligned with the authority of Scripture. He continued to operate in obedience to the Higher Authority when earthly authority acted outside the jurisdiction God established.

Romans 13 explains the purpose of government, and in that section, Paul says, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” (v. 3a) When the authority becomes a “terror to good works,” it is no longer operating within the boundaries God set forth, and thus obedience to Him supersedes obedience to the governing authority. Valentine made the right choice, even though it cost him his life.

The Supreme Court ruling on the definition of marriage is outside the God-ordained jurisdiction given them. Marriage isn’t a human institution and thus cannot be redefined in human terms. When God said “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24), He wasn’t opening it up for debate 4,000+ years later; He finalized it for all of history.

This Valentine’s Day — and every one that follows — will serve as an opportunity for us to hold high the sufficiency of Scripture and the order God so meticulously embedded in His creation. We have the privilege of showing a confused world that God set up a “good thing” when He sanctified marriage as only between one man and one woman. Whether married or not, the value that we place on His Word as authoritative and relevant in this discussion reveals a God who will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7) and His people who believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).

May your Valentine’s Day be marked by the glory of God.

 

Stories

We  need to do some community-building. And the opportunity needs to be presented for God to receive the glory due His name.“You are the same today as you will be 5 years from now except for the people you meet and the books you read.” -original author uncertain

This quote had me thinking recently. It is true — but why  is it true? It all comes back to stories. Each of us has a story to tell. Some of us speak them, some of us write them. The amount of detail in our stories doesn’t necessarily determine the value thereof. Some use flourishing details, others speak or write minimally.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

Stories are shared that they may be heard. We would do well to listen more – with our ears and our eyes. To be well-read in both human emotions and printed pages. Sharing our own story often comes more easily than listening intently to someone else’s, but learning to slow down and listen fosters true community.

When we listen, we learn. We empathize. We experience. Our own perspective shifts, expands, and widens. The universe no longer focuses on us, and we begin to understand that we all have something in common… the “human experience.” What distinguishes my experience from yours are merely details.

The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
Isaiah 50:4

On the flipside, some of us do  struggle to share our own stories. Finding a listening ear has been such a trial that we have concluded it less painful to listen quietly and ask questions of the storyteller. Becoming the storyteller without an audience seems to defeat the purpose. So we allow someone else to tell us their stories instead.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

In actuality, the building and thriving of a community necessitates storytellers and  listeners — each in their season. We need to know we aren’t alone. The weary need encouragement. The battle-scarred need reminders of healing. The new believer needs to know the wonders God has wrought in your life. The faithful believer needs to hear, perhaps for the hundredth time, just how good  God is.

God has given us stories to share with each other for His glory. By withholding the triumphs and the strains, the bounty and the famine, we are holding back some the Glory a dying world yearns to experience. And sometimes, even the faithful hunger for reminders of His faithfulness in times past.

This is my invitation to you. You are welcome to share all or part of your story here! I need some practice listening. We  need to do some community-building. And the opportunity needs to be presented for God to receive the glory due His name.

Who are you and what have you been through? What are some of your likes and dislikes? Share your story in the comments or on Facebook, if you prefer. I’m listening!

{image by loleia}

Linked up at Fellowship Fridays

Take My Lips

Each Monday, we look at a line from the old hymn  Take My Life and Let it Be. Let’s see how we can apply the next line.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.

Taking a look at the next line from the classic hymn Take My Life and Let it Be. How can we use this hymn to apply God's Word to every aspect of daily living?Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.

 At first glance, differentiating between “take my voice” and “take my lips” appears to be difficult. Aren’t they one in the same? Yes and no. They are two parts of one whole, but the tone of a message and the words of a message are distinct.

In the midst of tense disagreements, you will often hear long silences. I frequently opt to not say things rather than say something in haste and regret it. However, this also leads to things that need  to be spoken actually being left unspoken.

It has been said that there are two categories of sins: the sin of commission (the wrong thing you do) and the sin of omission (the right thing you don’t do). When it comes to the “messages from Thee” I desire to have fall from my lips, I withhold far too often.

  • It would be awkward.
  • I don’t know the person well.
  • What if I say the wrong thing?

It’s not uncommon for me to pull the Moses card. You know, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Ex. 4:10) Eloquence or fluidity in writing does not equal fluidity in speech; with writing I can scrap thoughts and rewrite before anyone else sees it. With spoken messages, not so much.

Yet time and again, the LORD rebukes and reminds me, Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”  (Ex. 4:11-12) If I desire for my lips to be filled with messages from Him, I have to trust that He will use my stutters and misgivings for His ultimate glory. I can choose to join Him in how He is working in the lives of those around me, or I can contentedly keep to myself. After all, if I never open my mouth, I won’t ever fail, right?

Wrong.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

Someone is waiting for a word of hope. What if I am the one withholding it from them?

Do you tend to speak hastily or leave words unspoken? How are you asking the LORD to take your lips?

Ministry Spotlight: She Is Safe

February's ministry spotlight focuses on She Is Safe, a ministry aiming to prevent, rescue, and restore women and girls who have been abused and exploited around the world.Exploitation. There is an upswing in our conversation about it, thanks to causes such as the End It Movement and dedicated bloggers like Sarah Jo who promote awareness and ways to consider stepping out of the consumer-driven “need” for child slave labor and other atrocities. And there are ministries that help the women and children who are taken advantage of in these situations. February’s focus is on one such ministry, She Is Safe.

Michele Rickett was serving in East Africa when she witnessed firsthand the suffering of women and children in this way. She envisioned “[raising] awareness among those who are blessed with freedom and resources to address the oppressive issues females face. These include child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy, health and hygiene, abuse and exploitation.” And thus She Is Safe (SIS) was born.

As stated on the website, the mission of SIS is “to prevent, rescue and restore women and girls from abuse and exploitation in high risk places around the world, equipping them to build a life of freedom, faith and a strong future.SIS works with women and girls in China, India, Indonesia, Mali, the Middle East/North Africa, Nepal, North America, South Sudan, and Sudan.

She Is Safe has some excellent strategies for helping you get involved in their mission. Maybe one of these fits you!

  • If God has given you a strong voice and determination to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, perhaps you would be interested in starting a SIS advocacy group.
  • Have kids who are independent readers? Join the Read to Rescue cause, started by 11 year old Amelia. Kids ask people to sponsor them at $5 per book they read in a month. It takes a bit of effort, but what a great way to get kids involved in this global crisis.
  • Like to run? What if you ran free girls in Indonesia or Sudan from slavery? The Run to Rescue initiative is right up your alley. You can set the goal at whatever you’d like (ex: Running a 5k with a goal of raising $5,000) and select which country or project you specifically want to help. You can even order a dry-fit Run to Rescue t-shirt for race day!
  • Buy a Book! Interested in learning more about the plight of these women and girls? Order Daughters of Hope  ($10 + $2 shipping) or Forgotten Girls  ($8 + $2 shipping) and educate yourself as God enlarges your perspective.

If you want to contribute financially on a monthly basis, they have a special designation for you — a Red Panda sponsor. For participating with the ministry in this way, they will send you a membership pin, a magnetic car decal, regular reports on the progress of their work, and a booklet on how you can pray specifically for endangered girls.

Prayer is waging war. You can wage war on behalf of these women and girls, and you can be informed as you pray. Sign up for their newsletter and/or blog updates to pray specifically as needs are brought to your attention. Of course, you can also follow SIS on Twitter or like SIS on Facebook for updates.

How will you get involved?