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Living in a fog

Have you ever felt like you were living a dot-to-dot life? Like you are just trying to survive this week to get to that family vacation next week. Getting through the next few days till you have a gathering with friends. Or, just a few years and the kids will all be in school!

I have felt this way a lot. While living in our last home I was always living from this event to the next. I was in a good mood and excited leading up to the next planned family outing, or event with our son’s Down syndrome group and just kept telling myself, “I just have to get to ____!” Then the event would come and go and there was always a big letdown coming back home. To counter the depressed feeling I would quickly shift my thoughts to what event was coming up next. How long did I have to wait? How many days did I have to survive caring for my 3 young children before something would be happening to give me some relief and a break from my life?

I was living in a fog and did not have my eyes focused on the Lord. I was only living for myself (and for my kids) and had no idea what a life of contentment in the Lord could mean. Now I am learning about contentment in the Lord and this past week’s lesson was about getting your life in focus. You can’t climb the corporate ladder, win a football game, or even bake a cake without a clear focus of what you are doing. So how can you live your life, and live for Christ, if you aren’t focused on Christ.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17

We were encouraged to write a life purpose statement. Linda Dillow, author of Calm My Anxious Heart, gave us examples of 4 women and their life purpose statements. (See note at end of post if you want to read more about these) Then she instructs us to spend an hour alone with God, asking him to reveal His life purpose statement for us. Then we are to write down any thoughts or ideas that come to us. Before doing this exercise, I was standing at the sink doing dishes and I had a bible verse come to mind. I could only stumble through a few words, “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.” Since my husband is a pastor I turned to him to help and with a little searching he found it:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Oh what comforting words these are to me. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” In my life right now that is a very blessed reminder that the Lord is in control. And since I started this bible study, Philippians 4:11-13 has been a great source of strength and peace:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13

 These two verses, along with a couple of statements of how I will strive to live my life, became my life purpose statement. I can finally see now that the fog has lifted! I have a clearer vision for my life. Rather than just surviving my days, I am thinking about what I want to accomplish with this life and the talents the Lord has given me. I can daily tend to the little details that keep that big picture – “…eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 – in focus!

**To read an excerpt about Life Purpose Statements from Calm My Anxious Heart go to this link on Amazon, click the picture of the book to look inside. Then under the search box click the sample search “life purpose statment.” Start reading on page 110.

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More, more, more!

Have you seen the new Walmart commercial where the endorser takes a woman into the store to shop for Halloween candy? He shows her Walmart’s low prices and tells her that they will price match at the register if she finds it cheaper anywhere else. She then excitedly replies, “Wow, I can buy more!” If you have seen that commercial, what does it say to you? To me it shouts greedy, greedy, greedy! She is so excited that she can buy “more!”

If you haven’t guessed already, this week’s lesson in my bible study was about greed, or as the author puts it, Never Enough. How often have we thought that we never have enough? Never enough money, never enough clothes, never enough toys. But what does God say about this?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

1 Timothy 6:10 & 17

“Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Luke 12:15

Right now our family is poor in the sense of work income, but we are not lacking in possessions! Our current house is less than half the square footage of our last house. If you have ever moved before, I’m sure you know that you grow to fit the space you are in. So we had grown to fit that larger house and now our smaller house is quite full of boxes, we have boxes at my in-laws and a storage unit full of boxes. We have lived her for just over a year now and I still have several unpacked boxes. You might think, well, that is totally understandable, you don’t have house space for everything you had before. Yes, but what if I told you some of the boxes were stored in the basement of the old house where they were never unpacked! It was so easy to ignore them then, now however, they are here where I see them and wonder, “Why do we have all this STUFF?” It’s clear that I have stored up for myself many possessions and I am just letting the “moth and rust destroy” them. I am cluttering up my house and my mind with all these possessions!

It is time for me to cut the ropes! Linda Dillow writes: Greed is like a weight attached to you by a rope. If you want to be free of greed, practice this little exercise. Stand in your house and look around. Where does greed have hold of you? Survey your possessions and ask God to show you where to cut the ropes. Do you need to give some clothes away? Do catalogs or newspaper ad inserts cause you to covet, throw them out before reading them. Does a friend cause you to get the “greedies”? Maybe you should stay away from him/her.

It’s time to clear out these boxes of unneeded items. Why should I hold on to these items that I don’t need when there may be someone else who can use them or recycle them for another use. And by letting these items go I can let go of this greed and guilt of having these boxes cluttering up our lives. Maybe then I can pass along this lesson to my children. I can already see their deisire to hold on to possessions, wanting to keep every item that comes into their hands and never letting go. Instead of storing up these possessions on earth we need to learn and teach generosity and a willingness to share…

“In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

1 Timothy 6:19

Playing in the leaves

I don’t want to stay up too late tonight, need to get some rest sometime. However, I wanted to give a little update. Our food stamps have been approved once again, Praise the Lord! I am so thankful that they were prompt in reviewing our case.

And I have just a few more words and thoughts for today. My bible study has been teaching me about being content and while it is very hard to do on days when the kids are restless and looking for new ways to get into trouble, the kitchen is a mess and you don’t have the energy to clean it up, and there’s that basket of laundry that has been sitting in your bedroom for 4 days! But will complaining really fix things? Sure it’s easy to just say, “I give up!” Especially when you feel like you are the only one who is even trying, but that won’t make things any better.

My new mentor mom at MOPS retold what she heard from another mom – this is my version of her story. We are exhausted with our new baby and say, “it will be better when she is sleeping through the night.” … we struggle with a toddler in diapers and say, “it will be easier when he is potty trained.” … we run our grader schooler to after school events and say, “it will be nice when she can drive herself.” … our schedule is full of high school activities and we say, “I will have time to finish my projects when the kids are out of the house.” Then the kids move out and we wonder where has the time gone? What did we miss by wishing for the “next thing?” Did we ever enjoy our children at each stage they were at?

Tonight I enjoyed my children. After a walk around the block with the whole family, I called the older 3 into the yard under the tree that recently shed all it’s leaves and started throwing leaves on them. They quickly joined in and we had a good ‘ol leave fight! It was so much fun! Sure I had a headache most of the day and baby CE was cranky cause her schedule was off, but none of that mattered while we were in the yard. I didn’t feel my headache anymore and we were having fun! Now that is what I want to remember.

Need a little stretching

I felt so empowered by my bible study the first week, I posted by bible verse for the week on the wall, hung up our “Prescription for Contentment” (I copied it below) and was feeling such a calmness and peace despite our circumstances. The next week was pretty good also, but then I started to feel “reality” or probably more acuratly – the devil – fighting his way back into the forefront. The kids were starting to drive me crazy and another month and another round of bills were knocking on my door bringing the worry. Today I had the real kicker… we have been blessed to be receiving food stamps for a year now. Since it has been a year it was time to renew everything and that meant doing the process all over again. So I filled out their very long and extensive application, received and gathered everything for the “verification requests,” and faxed all the documents to the Department of Health and Human Services. I unfortunatly forgot that one page had a back side. A few days later we received a letter saying that we had failed to provide necessary verification. Upon realizing my mistake I quickly scanned and submitted the back side of the document they needed. This was late on a Friday so I could not call and verify that we were on track until Monday. When Monday rolled around I forgot…all week I forgot to call and check on that document. And because I forgot we received the letter yesturday that said we were DENIED due to failure to provide verification. I finally got through today and got everything cleared up, however, because we did not get this ironed out by the 28th of September they now have til the 28th of October to make a decision on our case. This means I have no food stamp money until they approve things and my experience is that they wait till the last minute. Now let me appologize for my list of sorrows, and for my complaining. Let me now share the insights God has laid upon me.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, my soul knows that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:14:16

In our bible study we discussed how God knows us very intimatly, “my frame was not hidden from you,” and he knows what is planned for all our days. He gives us talents and abilities and helps to shape our character. But is he pleased with what we are doing with our talents? Are we sharing our talents with others? Are we using them to glorify God? And what about our character traits? Do they please God or do we have some that displease him?

 The real kicker for our group was the question: Are you willing to be stretched to discover your abilities and spiritual gifts?

 Are any of us willing to be stretched? Most of the time our answer would likely be no, I don’t want to be made uncomfortable. I want to stay here in my nice cozy comfort zone and let my days pass by. Well, some day your comfort zone may be yanked out from under you. I know mine sure has. But you know what, we have a way of doing a little rebuilding and creating a new comfort zone real quick. The question is, why did we loose our first comfort zone? Could it be that God is trying to stretch you a bit and teach you something. Yeah, I think now we might be working toward something here. So, I got yanked from my first comfort zone – financial stability. Now I lost my make-shift comfort zone – food stamps. Maybe it’s time to stand up and face the fear.

 The plan: I love to crochet, that’s a real comfort for me. I make things for my family and give away as gifts. I have always thought about selling some items, but, uh-oh, here comes the fear…. what if I don’t have the time to get projects done, what if I make a bunch of stuff and then never sell it, what if this starts to feel like work and I don’t enjoy crocheting anymore? I guess now is the time to face the fear. We need income and I need to be at home with my family, so now is the time to start marketing my talents and the abilities God has given me. And who knows, maybe this will lead to opportunities to share the gospel, another fear of mine… oh gee, am I sharing the gospel now? Perhaps God has already put that one into action. (Hence the starting of this blog!)

 My husband is also working on a plan. He is feeling drawn back to the ministry, but is he really ready to overcome the anxiety that comes along with visiting people. In order to face his fears and be stretched, he is going to go on visits with a pastor here in town. He will be doing this with an experienced pastor who really enjoys the visitation and pastoral care ministry. By shadowing him, my husband will be able to rebuild his confidence and God willing be able to serve a vacancy and eventually accept a call to a church. He is also continuing to look for other employment opportunities, since the visitations will not be paid work, but this is a step in the right direction.

 So I ask that as you consider us in your prayers, also pray that you may be willing to be stretched to discover other abilities and gifts that God has given you. And let us all praise and glorify God for all the blessings that he has given us. I must note, as we did our prayers as a couple tonight we had more on our ‘thanks’ list than our requests list – even after a day like today. Praise the Lord!

Ella Spees, a misionary in Africa wrote this prescription for Contentment:

Never allow yourself to complain about anything — not even the weather.

Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.

Never compare your lot with another’s.

Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.

Never dwell on tomorrow —remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours.

*taken from: Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow

Learning to be Content

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want, I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:11-13

Last night I was devastated after we got the news of another job rejection. Then today I did my bible study “Calm my anxious heart” and this verse was our theme. God gave me just what I needed right now. I am feeling very at peace right now. I know that our journey is not over and that I still have a lot to learn, but God is working in me to calm my heart and teach me to be “content in any and every situation.”

I also learned in this first lesson that I have to trust God to give us what we need, not what we think we need or what we think we want. I prayed and I asked for prayers for that teaching job. I would say in my prayers “Your will be done,” but I really wanted my will. Now I know to pray that God would care for us, give us what we need when He knows we need it and he will see us through. So I ask that you would continue to pray for us, but let us all pray for God’s will to be done. For patience, for a calm heart and a learning spirit as we walk through this valley and may we never forget to praise Him when we are in want and when we have plenty.