Sunday, December 27, 2009

Resolution Alternatives

I'm not into New Year's resolutions. I am trying, however, to live a life that often incorporates many of the resolutions people make. For those who are making resolutions or are just looking for help in their day-to-day life, I can personally attest to the following websites and organizations making a huge difference in mine. Maybe they will help you too.

1. Spiritually. Living Proof Ministries and Beth Moore's blog.
The blog in particular has done more for me spiritually and in my accountability with other women than I can possibly begin to explain. Even though I do not know these women, there is a connection through this blog and through the Bible verse memorization that has gone on over the last year. Can't wait to start again this coming year with the memory verses and with a new on-line study regarding insecurities women face.

2. Financially. Southern Savers and Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University
With the help and free advice of Southern Savers we have cut our grocery bill literally in half! Our cupboards are well-stocked, actually overflowing, with name brand items we need and use. Below is just one example of what I am talking about:
All of this only cost $2.18 total out-of-pocket and that includes tax.

The zero-balance budget from Financial Peace University is absolutely fabulous for helping to see where our money really goes and allows us to give, save and wisely spend our money without stress and confusion.

3. The House. Two simple words: Fly-lady or
I started implementing the ideas from this website several years ago and was amazed at how clean my house stayed, how organized I was and unstressed my life felt. But two moves in two years put the Fly-lady routines in the closet for a bit. Although I was still using the basic concepts, I hadn't been fully utilizing the plans. Christmas is over, I have dug out my book from the closet and tomorrow I will start again. It is well worth it.

I pray that someone else is blessed and helped by these websites. They have been a blessing in mine and I have found each one of them to be all they claim and so much more.

Here's to a less stressful life!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A First Time for Everything

I did it. Christmas cookies baked, cake baked, chex mix done, gifts bought and wrapped (all of them) and it is only December 23rd. Never in my 24 years of marriage can I say that I wasn't still wrapping gifts on Christmas day. Never. But not this year. I did it and it looks a bit like this:

Two of my favorite recipes for Christmas time.
Mule ear cookies and pistachio cake.

Yes that is extra "frosting" on the bottom - way too good not to just
pile it around the bottom of the cake.

And this is just one of the reasons I am done early. My 8-month pregnant daughter and son-in-law are on the way home to spend Christmas with us for a few days before heading to the Humphrey family Christmas. My son is home, my husband will be soon - lots of reasons to celebrate this season. Our first Christmas with a child expecting and our last Christmas without a little grandchild running around. I like these new traditions.

He is our Hope

Christmas - a time of joy, of celebration, of anticipation. But what about for all those I know, or know of, that have gotten the cancer diagnosis, are losing their home, losing their job, have prodigal children, are facing unwanted divorce, can't see through the strongholds of addiction, have children with serious medical conditions, have lost a child, are facing arrest, struggling with their sexual identity, grieving the loss of loved ones - so what about them?

Jesus is our hope. It can be so easy to look at the hard and difficult and often unseemly insurmountable trials of life and wonder "is there hope?". It can be even more difficult at Christmas, because everyone else is happy or so it seems. Sometimes our trials are public and painful, sometimes they are personal and painful. But we all have trials.

Jesus is our hope. Christmas is the reason we have hope in this life. Without Christ, all of these things would be devastating beyond belief and we would and should give up hope. But Christ came and Christ conquered all of those things. This life and its trials are temporary, but Jesus is eternal. His glory is eternal.

Jesus is hope for the cancer patient and the parent of the prodigal.
He is the hope that springs eternal for the ones facing financial downfall.

Jesus is hope for the addicted, the lost, the hurting, and the lonely.
He is the hope for those that desire what is good and right and battle the inner struggles each night.

Jesus is hope for the struggling marriage and for those who have miscarried.
He is the hope that lives within us and has conquered the death we fear.

Jesus is hope that brings new life to those who know sexual sins.
He is the hope to the one facing an uncertain future for bad decisions made one night.

Jesus is hope to the family that can't find their child.
He is the hope to those that they think they are unforgivable, unlovable and without hope.

Jesus is hope to the teen who wonders "what have I done?".
He is the hope to the parent who wonders if their child will ever return Jesus.

Jesus is hope to whatever it is that you need hope for.
He is the hope that appeared on Christmas morning - the Savior of the world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Which Direction Should I Go?

Okay so that really wasn't my question, but God seems to keep giving me the answer "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" (Eugene Peterson). It was kind of like Jeopardy where you are given the answer and then you have to come up with the right question. God keeps telling me "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction". So if He keeps saying it, apparently I needed to get the book off the shelf and actually read it. Last week I kept hearing those words over and over again in my spirit. I didn't bother to look for the book because I was certain I was to find another book that Beth Moore had referenced in her Psalms of Ascent bible study and read it. Dug through the closet, found my workbook, flipped to the back where the end notes and references are so that I could find the name of the book I wanted to read. God has a sense of humor - repeatedly referenced was "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction", by Eugene Peterson. Not one mention of the book I was thinking of. I get the hint. Got the book.

I haven't made it past page 22. But there were some things that immediately stood out.

1. "One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once."

Ouch! - Way too often I expect quick results and quick fixes in my personal life and in my faith walk. I want what is worthwhile and if that means waiting, then so be it.

2. Between the Times. "Paul Tournier, in A Place for You, describes the experience of being in between - between the time we leave home and arrive at our destination; between the time we leave adolescence and arrive at adulthood; between the time we leave doubt and arrive at faith. It is like the time when a trapeze artist lets go the bars and hangs in midair, ready to catch another support; it is a time of danger, of expectation, of uncertainty, of excitement, of extraordinary aliveness."

I think I am 'in between'. I'm just not sure between what?! But I find myself knowing that I am not where I was and I have not yet arrived at where God is taking me. I am somewhere hanging midair and waiting on God to release the trapeze bar for me to grab and swing safely to the next destination.

3. "For those who choose to live no longer as tourists, but as pilgrims . . . "

I want to be a pilgrim on the journey of faith. I do not want to merely be a tourist visiting Christianity and picking up all the Christian bobbles and souveniers to display for others to see. I want to be one with Christ. Walking with Him, following Him, climbing the mountains and descending into the valleys if that is what it takes. I want more than the postcard.

I will never profess to have the answers or to understand all that God is trying to teach me. But this I know, he keeps telling me (and I believe others) to keep going in the same direction. Don't quit. Don't change course. Don't give up. Don't become a tourist. Stick with it. There is more than we can see or know or imagine. Hold out for what is up ahead. If God has placed you on a course, stay on it until He tells you otherwise. Difficulty, boredom, inactivity, opposition are not reasons to switch the direction we were headed.

A long obedience in the same direction. I think that is the way I will choose. Perservering as long as God calls me, in whatever he calls me to do. I have no doubt that I will not be disappointed by God.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Heading Here

I have owned this for two years and I think I have even proclaimed on this blog that I was doing this devotional only to stop after day 1 (which was actually day 5 of the devotional because I can't count!). Anyway, this is just one of the places I am heading in the next few days and weeks. Well, if I am counting correctly this time, for the next 90 days I will be in this study. And I am very excited.

I am one of those people who owns lots and lots of books that I have never read. But God always seems to know just what I need, when I need it and this was no exception. How amazing and timely that today's scripture was on the birth of Christ from the book of Luke. But even more amazing was the little piece of pink paper that fell out of the front of the book. Two scripture references, handwritten but not by anyone's handwriting that I recognize. Both verses were unfamiliar to me just by the citation. Looked them both up and knew instantly that they were for me in this season on this day. It wasn't a mistake. That little piece of paper was like a confirmation from God that I was in the right place, at the right time and that He and I were going to have a good time getting to know one another better. Okay - he knows everything about me, but I have much to learn. And, well, if there is much work to be done, it might not all be fun. So it is with God and I wouldn't trade a single moment of my journey with him or in pursuit of Him.

May it be 90 days to the glory of Jesus!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Friday night at 9:00 p.m. officially started a new season for me. A season of rest. I can't remember the last time I had one - a real one. Saturday morning and even into today have been almost odd. I feel misplaced, like I am forgetting something. But I'm not. I am right where God wants me for a bit and hopefully I haven't forgotten a thing. My friend and mentor, Mary Hill, will be thankful to know this and I will just leave it at that.

For 7 years, I have been running as hard as I could after God. I have been left breathless by the joy and awe of Him, as well as by the sheer demands of ministry. God has never left my side, although I believe I often ran in circles or out in front of him. It has been a blast. But it is time to rest and recharge and re-evaluate.

As I closed with prayer and helped a bit with clean up at New Hope's (Wooster) women's ministry event on Friday night, I knew when I got in the truck a new season was upon me. There is nothing pressing for me to study outside of my own personal bible study. Nothing to prepare for in the immediate days to come. Just a time alone with God and my family. I have a hunch that both will change me radically.

A burning desire is aflame within me to draw closer to the Lord - to soak in His word, to sit at His feet and to bask in His presence. Christmas is just a few days away and I long to serve my family and cherish them even more this year. Only a few more weeks until our first grandchild arrives - oh glory! Life is changing and I am thankful.

I honestly feel like I am entering into a time that will redefine who I am as a wife, a mother, and a woman of God. I am looking forward to it. Redefined - more intentional in my pursuit of all of those callings. A woman who lives intentionally in her relationship with God. Perhaps with less 'to-do' lists running through my head, there will be more room for storage of the Word.

May I come out of this season not just a little different, but radically changed. Not a radical change as the result of earth shattering events, but radically changed because I have been in the extended presence of the One who extends radical grace, love and forgiveness.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Wintry Mix

Tonight was our last women's Tuesday night bible study for the year 2009. With mixed feelings, it was the last week of 11 weeks of Beth Moore's The Patriarchs. My mixed feelings weren't so much about this last study as they were about what is yet to come. God saw fit to allow a real wintry mix to hit our part of the woods tonight and it seemed to be fitting of all that was in my heart.

For weeks I have known, or at least had a very strong suspicion, that I would be taking the month of January off from organized Tuesday night bible study. There are days I have longed for a season with less to do so that I could focus more on my own relationship with God. I have needed it. God and I have some matters to attend to so that my own spiritual growth will be just that - growth. I long to be more intentional in the area of spiritual disciplines. I long to be more like Jesus and that doesn't happen if we don't carve out specific time for him.

But as I looked at the faces of the women in the study and then drove home in the dark, sleety/rainy/snowy/slushy weather I realized my soul felt kind of like the elements - mixed. I am absolutely crazy about the women in our bible study! Some of us have journeyed through 2 1/2 years and 8 in-depth bible studies together. Some of us just met for the first time 11-weeks ago. But either way - I love each one of them. I lamented all the way home at the thought of not being together for the next 7 weeks. Less than 30 minutes had passed before I longed to start preparing for next week's study.

Then I thought of how much I need and desire to draw closer to the Lord and to sit at his feet. It is necessary for me and for the women in the study. If I don't spend time growing in my relationship with my Savior, how can I ask them to.

I'm not sure what God has in store for the next few weeks. My soul truly felt like the weather. My emotions couldn't decide exactly what they wanted to feel. Somehow all kinds of feelings just seemed to happen all at the same time and there were no other words to describe them than "wintry mix".

I will draw away for a season to be with the LORD and as I do, I will also be waiting expectantly for what He has in store. I know that I will not be disappointed - no matter the mix of emotions that come my way.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spiritual Heartburn

I have been suffering from spiritual heartburn. Self-diagnosed, but spiritual heartburn nonetheless. I have been up almost every night recently with spiritual indigestion. Tossing and turning. Waking up randomly for short periods. My soul was upset and rightfully so.

I had noticed over the last few days and weeks that I would open my mouth and find myself shocked at what came out. (no - for those who are wondering I wasn't using any foul language) But what was coming out of me I am sure was displeasing to God. Little responses or quick answers that could have been perceived as harmless, but I knew God was not happy. I felt immediate conviction and a sense of "what were you thinkin'!" A "what were you thinkin'" that was different from this post. It was like God was holding up a mirror and wanted to know whose reflection I saw. I think it was kind of a wake-up call to me. I need to be more serious about some of the things that God has laid on my heart. More disciplined. More focused on the things above. Matthew 15:18 says"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean'." For me personally, I need the Word to sanctify me and cleanse me daily. I will fail miserably if left on my own.

The spiritual heartburn also came from eating the lesser things. For whatever reason, I have been around a lot more people lately (perhaps it has something to do with the holiday season) and have found myself not being fed on the Bread of Life, but rather on some cheap drive-thru food at these various gatherings. It isn't even that I chose to eat what they were offering by way of conversation. It was more like a food fight and my soul managed to digest it. I do not mean this as some 'holier-than-though' comment. It too was a wake-up call. God tells us to be in the world and not of the world. He also tells us very clearly in Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen". Others are listening to what comes out of our mouths. We hear what comes out of others mouths and both can cause spiritual heartburn if we are not careful. I seriously felt like all night long I was burping up someone else's words that had penetrated my soul. It was not leaving a good taste in my mouth.

I want to be the people-pleaser and apologize up front for this blog. But not really, that would be like offering you some spoiled food instead of the real thing in hopes that I would make you happy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gift Bag Etiquette

After two hours of women's bible study on Genesis Chap. 45 and the life of Joseph, it seems this was the only place left for our minds to wander to - gift bag etiquette. Not sure how we got there, but as three of us stood around closing the camp down after bible study we found ourselves sharing some sister time. It went a little like this . . .

Somehow we get on the topic of the joy and beauty of the gift bag. It is reusable. It comes in the perfect size for everything. It comes in the perfect color. They aren't expensive. Easy to store. We reminisced and rejoiced over "the gift bag".

A few weeks ago my husband and I were giving a gift to another couple. I grabbed the gift bag - he grabbed a box and wrapping paper. I could not begin to understand why we would go to that trouble. He could not figure out why I would want to use the bag. Apparently, some men, maybe all, do not use gift bags and don't particularly care to receive their gifts in one. If it is going to be in a bag, then just leave it in the Wally-world bag and move on. If you are going to present it as a real gift, then it must be wrapped. All my friends and I could figure out is that men like to dig into things, tear things with their hands and that pulling the fluffed up tissue out of the top of a pretty gift bag was not manly enough. Who knew?

Next we went into tissue paper protocol for the gift bag. Filler tissue paper, if not too mangled, is reusable as more filler for another gift bag. There is a limit on that, however, and at some point it must be thrown out. The filler tissue in the top of the bag that sticks out must be fresh. We all agreed that we have not and will not resort to ironing our tissue paper for cryin' out loud. If it's wrinkled - it's filler.

The tag on the bag - off limits for writing your or anyone else's name on. It is just there to be pretty. Not for actually using as a name tag. Heaven forbid someone does use it without thinking, well at least you can tear the thing off. We all seemed to understand this unspoken rule quite well.

Then I said it. I told of someone who had actually written my name on the inside of the gift bag. Gasp! The other two women simultaneously gasped out loud with the same number of decibels at the thought of it. You DO NOT WRITE NAMES ON THE GIFT BAG! Oh, the sheer thought of a good gift bag being sent to the trash can before it's time was truly up.

We were all in agreement on the gift bags and the proper rules for using them. And then someone asked - how do we know this stuff? Women are not taught the gift bag rules. They just know. We have a gift bag etiquette gene somewhere in our makeup. Thank you Lord.