Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm a Mess

Do you ever find yourself wondering if you will ever be on the right path? Wondering if perhaps God is going to keep you heading in the same direction for an extended period and actually reveal His plan for your life? Yep - me too.

Every time I think I know or understand what God is doing with me, He changes the direction. Or at least that is how it feels. I am a list person, so personally I would prefer God show me the list and we could just get to work on it. After all we no longer live in the Old Testament times and my chances of living to 500 are unlikely, so we need to get busy. I'm not getting any younger.

God has put all kinds of passions and desires within my heart and mind that involve serving Him and living out His word. In my finite mind, it would seem that He should be opening doors and making the way for this to happen in a rather timely fashion. Doesn't seem to be the case.

I am a messy work in progress. I thought a lot about this in the last few days as it felt like large chunks of my life were just falling apart or not coming together in a very pretty fashion. I don't know a lot (or anything) about making pottery. But as I thought about my life and all that has been going on recently, I just envisioned Jesus up to his elbows (literally) in clay and water as He put me on the pottery wheel and worked at molding me and shaping me into the vessel he desires. I imagined his hands right there in the messiness of my life trying to make something beautiful out of it. His living water pouring into me and shaping me. His hands pressing, pushing, tenderly creating. While all I can see is this fast spinning-out-of-control view of life, Jesus looks down and sees what He is creating. From my place on the potter's wheel, there is stuff flying all over the place. Pieces of my life splattering on the floor, parts of me just dropping off to the side. Things in my life that appear to have no shape from my view on the wheel - have an intentional design from the view of the potter. Because I cannot see the finished product, I get frustrated and wonder what will I be when God is finished. I'm too focused on the end and not the process. This I do know. The nail-pierced hands of The Potter are carefully and lovingly molding this lump of clay into something useful.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Donuts - an empty way of life.

Donuts. Pretty. Sweet. Tempting. Glazed. Frosted. Powdered. Puffed up. Empty in the middle, unless superficially stuffed with something. Donuts aren't sinful in and of themselves. But sin could certainly be described similarly. They both look good. The donut is missing something. And sin leaves you feeling the same way - empty on the inside and missing something.

I like donuts. When I was under 30-something, I could eat them - lots of them - and they had no effect on me. Not so much now that I am in the over 40-something category. They still look good. They still initially taste good. But somehow after that last bite, I immediately regret giving into the temptation. My mouth feels and tastes funny. I can feel the sugar starting to run its course through my body. Not good. I start asking myself - why did you do that? You know how they make you feel. Was it really worth it? No. Sadly, I still gave in more than once thinking maybe this time the effects will be different. After all, how can something that looks that good make me feel that bad.

Sin can be that way. Tempting. Feels good. Looks good. In your heart and mind, you know better. You know you shouldn't. You know how you will feel after that 2-minute sin binge. But you do it anyway. I have been there and done that in a multitude of ways. And regretted every one, whether it was an immediate regret or on down the line. You don't always feel the effects of sin right away. It can take its toll on your spirit, soul and body long after you enjoyed the momentary pleasure of it.

I'm probably not going to die from the part of the donut I ate yesterday morning. But somehow the 'bad taste' of it is still with me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Band Camp, Yearbooks, Lists and Jesus

As I was driving home from work in the terribly hot, humid oppressive weather this week, I passed some students walking down the sidewalk carrying their band instruments. Sudden flashbacks of band camp invaded my thoughts. Spending weeks each summer during high school getting up early, going to the school, sitting in a sweltering hot band room, dressing in nice wool band uniforms for the first football game when it was 90 degrees out, etc. You get the picture. And then it hit me. Why? Why did I do it? I am not musically inclined. I usually didn't have my music memorized like I was supposed to. I didn't have some burning desire to go to competitions or advance into some great musical career. Then I remembered. The yearbook.

The more things you were involved in the more times your picture and name would appear in the yearbook each year. And then when you graduated you also got to have a long list of activities listed that you were involved in. I wanted a long list. I counted them. It didn't matter to me that I didn't even like some of the things I did or had the faintest interest in them. It was the list. The list that made decisions for me. More things - more something. As though a long list of achievements would give me some type of self-worth. I would have been better off picking one or two things I really liked and had some natural talent at and pursued those passionately. I know it is and was vain and who really cares. But back then it seemed to matter to me.

Following Christ can be like that. We want a list. A list of all the ministries we have served in, on and for. We want to be on people's lists of important ministry something or others. And then there are the rewards. Isn't that the goal, get to heaven, stand before Jesus and have him unfurl a long scroll listing all of the things you did for him? After all - we do get some sort of a crown or jewel or trophy or something for that, right? You know, make sure your face is in every picture as Christ looks back through the history of this church or that ministry. I am certain he will be so impressed. As He looks through your pictorial history, will he see His face in the picture? Will he mention how much you look just like Him? What will he see? After all the word says that God looks at the heart . . . 1 Samuel 16:7b "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Oswald Chambers asks in My Utmost for His Highest: "Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Himself?" That is good food for thought and something to seriously ponder. Are we (am I) more interested in making a list of things to do for Jesus than I am in who Jesus is? May my 'list' pale in comparison to my devotion and love for my Savior.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New to Me

Nothing profound here. But since I am sitting at the computer listening to Beth Moore, figured I would share with you the two new things I discovered today that are changing my life.

1. Aveeno shampoo & conditioner. Got a trial size sample and I am now hooked. This stuff is a best friend to "thick, curly, suffering from humidity" hair.

2. Laundry is almost fun if you do it listening to and watching Wednesdays with Beth, especially when it's Saturday. Love watching this, but I am at work when it is on TV and never seem to have time in the evenings with the cooking, cleaning and everyday life stuff. So perhaps it should be renamed "cleaning house and doin' chores with Beth".

Be blessed my friends.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Unbelieving Spouse

I used to be married to an unbelieving spouse. I am still married to the same man, but he is very much a committed and passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Not always the case. I know there is a woman out there who needs to read this today - so this is for you.

Before marriage, we talked about church and agreed we would go to church after we got married. Then life happened and church didn't. After we had kids, I started taking them by myself. Nothing like going to church and having your 'flaws' magnified. I was in a Sunday school class with all couples. I didn't even fit into the women's group I sometimes went to. If you are a wife who goes to church without her spouse, you will know what I am talking about in this. You need other women who understand. (Churches - please offer something for women who come to church without their spouses - and don't make it the "so you come alone class?". ) For awhile, I tried to persuade my husband to go. I tried nagging my husband to go. I tried guilting him into going. - No go. So I quit going.

Over the next several years, life was hard in many ways and we often talked about going to church, but still didn't. We did the oh-so-noble thing and sent the kids with grandma. Not horrible to do, but certainly wasn't the best way to go about this.

Fast forward many years. God starts working in ways we know nothing about. I feel God tugging at my heart to go to church. Mention it to my husband, who this time does not shut me down. The first Sunday only my daughter and I go. The next week he goes. Please understand that everything didn't just become easy and beatiful. It took time. Patience. Prayer. Biting my tongue. Prayer. Godly men reaching out to my husband in a non-threatening way. Tears. Disappointments. Prayer. And a lot of hard spiritual work. I was much more eager to jump on board in all ways and wanted to drag, push, pull, coerce my husband into going at the same speed I wanted to go. I wanted him to see church and all it had to offer through my eyes. God wanted my husband to see it through His eyes.

It has been a little over 6 1/2 years since we first walked through the doors of that church. My husband ultimately accepted Christ and was baptized. There have been huge and magnificent mountain top moments over the last 6 1/2 years. If you had told me these things would be so, I would NEVER have believed you. All things that have happened are to the glory of God alone. There also have been some very low, very dark, very difficult times since then. We have been spiritually tested from every possible angle. Again, glory to God alone for seeing us through.

I write this because I believe there are many women out there who feel like there is no hope. They have been praying for years and not seeing any progress in their husband getting any closer to God. They want to be involved and their spouse bulks at them being at "that church one-more-night with 'those people' ". They keep drawing closer to God and wonder if God has forgotten them. They are women who wonder if anyone else out there could possibly understand how they feel. The answer is 'yes'.

There are no guarantees as to if or when your spouse will come to know Christ. But know this, what seems and looks impossible to us is not impossible for God. Don't give up hope. Don't quit praying. If you aren't praying for your spouse, then start.

Are you living out the picture of Jesus in your home? Or are you loving on Sunday and cold-hearted come Monday? Do your actions and words reflect the love of Jesus at home and especially to your spouse? Do you show respect to your husband? Or do you find nagging comes a whole lot easier? Please don't say "when he starts going to church, then I will . . . " You go first. You show respect. If you don't think there is anything to respect about your spouse, find one thing and focus on it until God shows you more. You love on him like there is no tomorrow and don't quit. You want someone to change, start asking God how you need to change first. Please remember - six months of godly living and loving can be severely damaged by one 'heat-of-the-moment-letting-my-tongue-gain-control' word. Ask God to hold onto your tongue. This comes from a woman who has done it all the wrong way for a very long time.

I prayed and prayed and prayed for a godly husband. I prayed that my husband would be the spiritual head of our house and on fire for God. I couldn't figure out why God wouldn't just make it happen overnight after Kenny accepted Christ. Well, I wasn't the wife that Kenny would need as he became that man of God. I needed to change and grow. I needed refined and tested. I needed forgiveness and sanctification. I needed to get the whole forest full of logs out of my eyes so I could see things more clearly. God was about to do a mighty transforming work in my man, but He needed me to be a woman that could walk along side him and not drag him down.

Keep praying. Ask God how you need to change. Ask God to give you a passionate heart for your husband. Show your husband respect - privately and publicly. Take some tylenol at 7 - so you don't have a headache at 9. Hold on tightly to the Lord because He will never disappoint you.

And know this - you are not alone and there is hope. To God be the glory.

Friday, August 7, 2009

There's a New Game in Town

When my kids were little we played a lot of games and did a lot of puzzles. I absolutely love to play board games and card games. Well, the kids are grown and even though we still play games sometimes, it isn't nearly as often as I would like. So when someone said that couponing was a game and that you could cut your grocery bill down to $50 or less a week for a family of three adults (plus a few from time to time) - well I was in. On top of that, it isn't about buying generic or out-dated food. It is almost all brand names and good quality food. It takes a little time to cut the coupons, plan and to get it going, but so far I have managed to cut our food bill by 1/3 and we have more food and toiletries in our cupboards than ever.

I only shop at three stores (none of them start with W) and they are all within about a mile of each other. I am not buying anything we won't use or won't need. Part of my motivation is to take the money I am saving to buy other things we need or want for the house. In addition, I actually get free stuff and so I am able to give other items away that we might not need or use right away. Hopefully by the end of August, I will actually be at the $50/week for food and all toiletries and household cleaning products. And yes that figure includes meat, produce and make-up.

Southern Savers has great tips and information on coupons and deals. Although it features stores in the southern part of the country and all their sales don't line up with our stores here, there are great tips, suggestions and links. She does give info on Krogers, CVS, Walgreens, Riteaid and some others that are in Ohio. It is also cool that I am able to use my Kroger card to earn money for our church's preschool and earn savings for gasoline at the same time.

So let the games begin . . .

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What will you say?

I love Tuesday night women's bible study. (except for the part about being away from my husband). The women I meet with are totally amazing. I just love each and every one of them. I have been praying about what we should study in the next couple of weeks. God laid a couple of different topics on my heart that I am really excited about. As I was looking through some possible books to study in preparation, a title caught my attention, which resulted in this question running through my head:

When we get to heaven and we see God face-to-face and he wants to know what we think about the Book he wrote for us, what will we say?

How could I ever look the King of Kings in the face and say "I didn't really have time to read it." I could follow it up with "But I have one in every color!" So often I think about questions I want to ask when I get to heaven, things I hope to be able to find out or understand. I can just imagine asking those questions and He responding: "It was on page 455 in your NIV Study Bible and then again on page 500. I wrote it several more times for you because I knew you were going to need those instructions." Or saying Lord - how could you have let that happen, don't you care? And He will reply, "did you read the love letters I wrote you? If you had, you would know how deep my love for you really was. You would know how much I cared all along." I could go on and on with possible scenarios, but somehow I don't want to get to heaven and say "well - I blogged about it, doesn't that count?"