Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Might Be Common Sense To You

I've been learning something recently. It may be common sense to most of you, but it's been a revelation for me:

It's important to establish boundaries for myself. It's important to maintain those boundaries and not allow other people to trample them out of control, manipulation, or for their own personal gain.

You see, I've always thought I had to bend over backwards for others, often putting myself in situations I didn't want to be in. I've always caved to make others happy, depriving myself of value. I thought it was unChristian to say "no," or to value myself. I thought that doing things to appease others, even though my heart wasn't in it, was the Christian thing to do. Not so.

I've realized that God values me. He values the way He created me to be. He expects me to fulfill the purpose for which He created me, and sometimes that means saying "no" to what seems right to everyone else or to what makes others happy with me.

The hard part of it all is finding the voice to make those boundaries clear to others. I've been so accustomed to muting my own feelings, desires and needs that it's hard to vocalize them now. In fact, what I've spent most of my life vocalizing has been self-degrading. I'm understanding that God values me, and expects me to value who I am in Him. And in understanding that, I have to vocalize it to others so they understand and respect my boundaries.

 I guess a whisper is a good starting place.

For more on this topic I recommend reading Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back To Writing

Your gifts and abilities are part of God's purpose for your life. Not using them can lead to frustration, disappointment and fatigue.

I can't remember where I read that quote, but it's been hanging on my refrigerator for six or seven years. I've ignored that little handwritten sheet of paper for the past couple of weeks. I didn't want to think about not writing.

A third of the way through Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, I quit posting. I continued writing for a few days, but couldn't bring myself to publish what I'd written. Then I just stopped writing althogether. I won't go into the detailed reasons why, but it was due to my insecurity, not because God led me to. In fact, I knew He'd placed the Thirty Days series in my mind back in October with lots of ideas about what to write. So the last ten days without writing has seemed like an eternity. I can say with certainty that the quote above is true for me.

Even though the posts may be shorter and the days combined, I plan to finish out the Thirty Days series. After that, I have no plans. I'll see where God leads the writing, but I have no doubt that it will continue along the original purpose of this blog: my experiences and how God uses them to teach me. My insecurity will have to take a back seat, or better yet, be kicked to the curb.

I want to start back by sharing with you a gripping video I watched last week that someone recommended to me. It was the reminder I needed of how God loves and sees me, and how I should see myself. It was the kick in the pants I needed to remind me that He has given me the gift of writing, and I am to use it...with security in Him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: 9

My writing spot

I started blogging a little over a year ago. At the time, I had no idea how many bloggers are out there. I knew a couple of friends who had blogs and enjoyed reading what they had to say. And since I love to write, I thought blogging might be fun. I had no idea how God would use the blogosphere to influence my life.

I started searching for blogs on topics that were relevant to me, and I was surprised to find so many. What was even more surprising was how transparent the bloggers' writings were. I was shocked to see people writing with authenticity. I'd been writing in that style for a while, but hadn't dared share a lot of what I'd written. My thoughts on paper were mine alone. I feared judgment. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that people were actually embracing transparency and authenticity on their blogs. I didn't know anybody in real life that did. So when I started blogging, openly sharing what I'd been too afraid to share before, I started meeting real-life people who'd been in the same boat. What I've found is that many people want to be transparent, but are too fearful. By being vulnerable, I've found friends who also desperately wanted to take off the masks, but were afraid.

Today I'm thankful for my blog as well as others, and the way God has used them to teach me. He's taught me so much through other people's stories, as well as through my own writings.

Here are a few blogs I love to read:

My friend, Jamie...one of the first blogs I ever read
My all-time favorite blogger, who keeps it real every, single time
The first blog that ever shocked me with transparency
A blogger I can identify with almost every time I read
The blog that I share most often
One who makes me think a little deeper with almost every post
A blog that says the things most people are scared to talk about
A local couple whose ministry inspires me
The blogger who makes me cry just about every time


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: 8

Photos below: my views during today's morning run


I never liked running. I avoided it in p.e. every chance I could. I hated being sweaty and out of breath. But in 2008, my friend Ashley taught me how to run. She showed me how to start off slowly, running in 30-second spurts, resting in-between, until I built up my endurance. It wasn't long before I was hooked.

Since then, running has become a hobby and a stress reliever. I enjoy the time to think, to listen to music, to see the beauty of creation. Until this past Saturday, the most I'd ever run at one time was a 5k. But I've decided to run the Mercedes half-marathon in February, so I am now training to gain endurance. On Saturday, I ran 4 miles. To other runners, that's a breeze, but for me...it was huge! I set a goal and accomplished it. You see, running is mostly mental, and I am in the process of training my body and my mind. And on mornings like today, when I'm tired and my legs feel like lead, it's my mind that keeps my body going.

I've mentioned often in my posts how much God has changed me in the past year. One thing He's showed me is that finishing well is important. Although I didn't start off well due to choices I made, I want to finish life well. I want to accomplish things I set out to do. I want to train my mind to endure when life is hard. I want to push a little harder when I'm ready to give up. And I want God to get the glory for it all.

So today I'm thankful for running...not just the ability to run, but for what God has taught me through it. While I won't have the best time, and just might come in dead last in the half, I will finish with a smile on my face. Because giving up is not an option.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 6 & 7


It's wherever you are with the people you love.

It's the place where you belong.

It's where laughter and tears collide.

It's snuggling up cozy and hugs and kisses.

It's where frowns turn upside-down because someone else wants the best for you.

It's the one place you always want to go back to.

Yesterday and today I'm thankful for home.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On The Subject of Spanking

Today I am deviating from the Thanksgiving posts, and will pick back up tomorrow.

A few days ago I saw on the news a video clip of a father spanking (more like beating) his teenage daughter. The anchor commented on how disturbing the video was, so I watched it in its entirety on YouTube. Disturbing was one of many adjectives I could use to describe the video. As I watched, my stomach did several flips, my mind screamed, This is wrong!, and my anger at the parents boiled.

Over the past year, as I've learned about grace, God has changed much about my life. As I've begun to understand verses in context, and understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New, God has brought about changes in the deepest parts of me. I'd already been questioning the practice of spanking when I watched the video a few days ago...questions like: Why do we spank our children, then tell them not to hit others? Why do we spank our children, but adults don't hit each other when we do something wrong? Does spanking really correct behavior, or just make children fear {rather than respect} authority? At that point, I had more questions than ever, the most predominant being: Is the practice of spanking really Biblical?

I began to pray for clarification with the prayer I've often prayed during the past year: God, show me. I need to know what You say about this. I started looking up verses, and looking up original definitions of words in Scripture in Hebrew and Greek. Something wasn't right. I couldn't make spanking reconcile with what I was reading in Scripture. In my Internet search of the original Hebrew definition of rod, I came across a couple of articles which God used to confirm my inability to reconcile spanking with Scripture {specifically grace}. You can read the articles here and here.

My husband and I have been discussing the issue over the last couple of days, and more than likely, we will be abandoning the use of spankings in our home, and begin to practice grace-based parenting...the way in which our Father corrects us when we've done wrong. We hope to correct and guide with discipline. We have a lot to learn!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Lately our weekends have been busy-busy. But this weekend, Mark and I are without kids and are catching up on some of the movies we've been wanting to see. I'm thankful for weekends that provide rest and relaxation {and a date with my man}.

Friday night date

By the way, if you go see Courageous, don't carry a few tissues...carry a BOX of them!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

I've always loved music. All kinds. Everything from children's songs to jazz to country to Christian to pop to rock to {sometimes...yes, I admit it} rap. I've always been one to sing along with the radio. But it wasn't until my early twenties that I began to sing in front of people. It was then that I found that people connect with lyrics to songs. And I was {and still am} thankful to be a tool that God often uses to share words that cause people to respond to Him.

Singing is a gift I don't take for granted. There was a time a few years ago when I thought I might never sing again. Not because of any physical problem, but because I thought God no longer wanted me. When He spoke the words to my heart, God often uses broken people to accomplish great things, I knew He was calling me back. You see, He wanted me all along, but I was the one who had walked away in a broken state.

I'm beyond thankful for every opportunity to sing, whether it's alone in my home or in a packed sanctuary...because when it comes down to it, there's really only One audience that matters.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

There are some women who have lots of women friends, and every one of them is a best friend. That's not me. I have several good friends and lots of friends I can count on, but there are only three I trust with everything about me.

Meet the three women who I am so thankful God placed in my life:

Natalie and I became fast friends about nine years ago when we were singing in an ensemble together. She was the first female I ever really trusted as an adult. When our ensemble faced a difficult circumstance, I watched her handle it with honor and grace. My family spent many Sunday nights in her home, sharing yummy meals {she's a great cook...one of those people who doesn't have to follow a recipe}. She loved my babies before she ever had babies. And at a time when I turned my back on almost every friend I had, and they, in return, did the same to me, she remained. She offered grace to me when it would've been easier to abandon me. I'm thankful for all the memories we share {like the time she dropped a lizard in my house, sending me to the top of the couch, screaming}, but I'm even more thankful that we're still making memories.

I've written about Ashley before. We've only been friends for a little over four years, but it seems like a lifetime. It really is hard to imagine my life before she was in it. God placed us together at a time when we needed each other. We've often been mistaken for sisters, and once, a nursery worker tried to give me her son! She introduced me to coffee {thanks for the addiction, Ashley!} and to running {which she promptly gave up after I fell in love with it}. She's the friend who puts life into perspective, yet lightens up somber situations with her witty one-liners. She never fails to put a smile on my face and laughter in my heart. I'm thankful that she's the friend I can call day or night for anything.

Last, but certainly not least, is a newer friend. I've known Jennifer from afar for about three years, but only in the last year have we become good friends. Our friendship began and has developed through our search for a deeper understanding of grace. And through those talks, we found that we share the same sense of humor and the same desire for genuine relationships. She's the friend who makes me dig in Scripture for truth. She's the friend who told me there was no right or wrong about homeschool vs. public school {girl, thank you for those words...I'm so glad to have my days back!!}. When it comes to spiritual matters, our minds tend to run along the same wavelength, and we find ourselves in conversations that sound more like they belong in a seminary class. She's the friend my soul loves {even if I am jealous of her extensive collection of fabulous shoes and accessories!}.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

When I was young I would daydream about my life as an adult. I wanted to live downtown {somewhere} amongst bright lights in a big city. I wanted a career as an attorney. My daydreams rarely included a husband, and certainly didn't involve children.

How differently my life turned out to be! A husband and three kids later, I wouldn't trade a second of my crazy life for those daydreams.

I'm thankful for three little girls who have brought me immeasurable joy and taught me so much about life and love {and patience}.

My oldest daughter, Grace, is analytical, competitive and strong-willed. She loves music of all kinds, and has the gift of singing. She's often quiet and sits back to observe new situations {much like me}. Because she's the oldest, I have learned so much through her about parenting: opening up and facing the hard stuff...stuff I normally keep to myself, but for her sake, have learned to share. She questions everything, and as a parent, I sometimes want to toss out, Because I said so. But because she has a genuine need to know and understand, I've had to learn to take the time for explanations.

My middle child, Emma, is artsy, energetic and tender-hearted. She talks almost non-stop and is only still when she's asleep. She has a natural talent for dancing {I really don't know where those genes came from...her dad I have only left feet and no rhythm}. She's a funny child and loves to be the center of attention. She makes friends easily...I guess because she can't see other children without talking to them. She's taught me how to get out of my comfort zone and connect a little more easily with people I don't know. She's also brought sensitivity to my often-blunt personality.

My youngest, Hannah, is strong-willed and independent. She's quiet and shy around others, but is definitely the loudest child in our house. She knows what she wants {and doesn't}, and is quick to let the rest of us know. She often likes to play alone, stretching her imagination with every new barbie adventure. She's often so reserved that when she blurts out a one-liner, we all double over in laughter just because it's unexpected. She's taught me to pry a little deeper with people because you never know what you might find under the first layer of personality.

Fifteen years ago, I would've never guessed that children could teach me so much and bring me so much joy. But I'm so thankful God has filled my home and heart with three wonderful girls.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Whew! I made it! I'm cutting it close, but the day's not quite over. I've been planning to do Thirty Days of Thanksgiving blog posts for the month of November, and I almost missed day 1!!

When I began mulling over the topics I would write about this month, I automatically knew the first thing I wanted to write about. I knew I had to write about a man who, in so many ways, saved my life.

I've written about my husband several times on here, but one moment in our history stands out to me as more important than all the rest. One moment in which my husband only spoke three words, yet spoke volumes to my soul. One moment in which I was amazed at the character of the man I married. One moment that will forever be etched in my mind.

I forgive you.

With those three words, my husband demonstrated God's love to me. With those three words, I understood that God is good, loving, and forgiving. For many, those characteristics of God are a given, but for me, it was brand new, and it took my husband to reveal Him to me.

With those three words, my husband showed me what it means to truly love unconditionally. In a time when he would've been completely justified in walking away, he stayed. Not only did he stay, he loved me {and I'm pretty sure I was...and maybe still am...particularly hard to love}.

I'm so thankful for my husband...for so many reasons...but mostly because God allows Mark to reveal His heart to me.