Friday, November 30, 2012

Financial Peace University


Money can become quite an issue if you don’t know how to handle it.  If you are married, however, the greater issue is knowing how to communicate with each other and come to an agreement about how to handle it.  Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a great resource to help learn how to do this.  (No, this isn’t sponsored.)

My husband and I went through the course soon after we bought a house and I had quit an unhealthy job.  We weren’t bad at budgeting, and had handled our finances fairly well, considering.  However, we wanted to learn more about doing it God’s way, and it never hurts to get pointers.

FPU (Financial Peace University) started out by giving us some great guidelines for getting on the same page, as well as how to negotiate.  (It also helps that he’s fun to watch and listen to.)  He talks about a wide variety of financial subjects (like mutual funds, insurances, bargaining, budgeting, giving, etc.) that give you a well-rounded foundational knowledge to get going.

I am thankful that God gave Dave Ramsey a passion for this kind of thing, so that we could enjoy learning how to be good stewards of His money.  We are now out of debt (except for the house), and have three months of expenses saved up.  This is despite the fact that my husband is no longer working and is, instead, going to school.  This was not due to an increase in wages, it was due to a change in perspective.

God is in the business of changing our worldly perspective.  What perspective shift has He been working on in you lately?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rain

Psalm 121:5
"The Lord is Your Keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand."


I love the rain. I love the tinkling sound it makes on the roof in the car, and the designs it makes on windows. I love the roaring sound of it pouring down on a building’s rooftop, and the earthy smell that greets your nostrils when you step outside.  Colors are more vibrant, which is made more apparent by the relaxing overcast grey.

After entering work this morning, I heard the wind press up against the sliding door beside me and immediately opened the blinds in excitement to find that it was, in fact, raining.  I have this child-like desire to watch the rain when I hear it, and to just listen when it’s pouring down. It lights my face with a smile, relaxes me, and somehow gives me a child-like energy at the same time. I just want to enjoy it.

In answer to why it makes me relax, the best I can figure is it reminds me that I am not in control, and the God who controls the mighty force of the weather is. He creates those infinite designs on the windows. He creates the force that makes that same water bear down upon the roof. He created the ecological system that needed it, and the gravitational forces that make the colorful leaves heavier with water to fall to the ground faster.

And that same God knows I’m in the middle of His weather, and is protecting me from it. To be outside in the wind is to be braced by His hand against the gusts. To be inside during a deluge is to be sheltered under His wing. To watch the designs of the water on the window is God sharing His creativity with me, and letting me smile and marvel at His “magic tricks.” I am thankful for the rain and the reminder of God’s protection and love within it.

What reminds you of His love?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warning Signals

2 Corinthians 10:5
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up agains the knowledge of God, and we are taking every though captive to the obedience 
of Christ..."


I am thankful God fashioned the world so there’s usually a warning signal before something dangerous occurs. We see it in wear and tear on items, in the pain from touching something hot, and in the quickening of our heartbeat with anger or worry.  

The trouble comes more when we don’t heed the warnings.  If you use something well-worn, it’s likely to break. If you don’t heed the pain of the heat, you’ll burn yourself. If you don’t don’t pay attention to the signs of anger or worry, you will explode or have a panic-attack.

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself not paying attention to my emotions. It’s like checking for wear and tear. If you don’t do it, you won’t see the frayed rope about to break, or the bald tire ready to blow out.

God has begun to reveal a warning signal of negativity when I start to Brood. Brooding only leads me to depression. He has identified my quickened heart rate, and sometimes that sick feeling in my chest, as the precursor to anxiety.  Almost always, the immediate reaction that helps the most is to ask myself, “What am I thinking about?”

I’m thinking about my needs, or my wants, or what someone did to me. I’m thinking about my failures, what I should have done, or what if this or that. The center of my thoughts is on myself, not on God. If I shift my focus - if I’m thankful for what God has given me, or if I think of how to serve God with what I’m worried about (ie finances, etc.), or even just to quote Scripture back to myself - then God calms my anxieties, lifts me up, and reminds me of His care.

Sometimes shifting my focus is easy, and sometimes it is incredibly difficult. God encourages me to keep at it, and He will be faithful. He already has been. Sometimes I don’t need the verse in Philippians 1 to tell me God has already made me more like Christ than I was.  

Have you identified some of your own warning signals?  Have you asked Him for help lately?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fall

Psalm 139:7
"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?"


Fall is filled with such vibrant colors.  The contrasts of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens catch your eye for the simple reason that the landscape isn’t usually that color.  Each season has its own visual differences, but Fall is the most eye-catching. I am thankful for Fall and how God grabs my attention with His beautiful work.

Sometimes God has to catch our attention.  I personally find it quite difficult to keep His presence in mind consistently.  I lose sight of Him rather often during the day-to-day tasks.  God uses things like the Fall colors to catch my attention and remind me He is there, He loves me, and I am His.  This isn't His only way of reminder (though it is, perhaps, one of the more pleasant ones), but if He always used the same way, it would cease to catch my attention. Just as Fall wouldn't be so pretty if the landscape always looked that way.

How has God grabbed your attention lately?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Beautiful Views


Luke 12:7a
"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered."




There’s just something about looking out your window and seeing a beautiful view.  I smile and relax every time I’m at someone’s house and am able to do that. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t my view. I just love seeing what God has wrought.

I think it’s a reminder of His awesome Creation, and the fact He is big enough to make such a beautiful view - and so much more.  My God made all the earth and everything in it, as well as every planet, star, solar system, galaxy, nebula, black hole, and thing in the universe.  He didn’t just stop there, though.  My God maintains it.  This is no small feat - especially when He gave some of His creation minds of their own.

Yet He knows every bird, leaf, and ray of light that comprises that view, and orchestrated every microscopic detail to make the view exactly what it is.  And here I stand gazing out, able to enjoy it. It’s like God is sharing just a little of Himself with me.

Have you stopped to enjoy the view lately?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Success and Failure


Lamentations 3:22-23
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”

God has a different definition of success and failure than we humans do.  Success as the world sees it, is more about what we do and how we do it, whereas in God, there is always success, because God is the one upon Whom things rely - and God never fails.  There is always Victory in Christ.  God uses our “failures” just as much, if not more than, our “successes.”  

Struggling with worry about failing is one of my weaknesses.  I am so afraid of man and of being rejected by man that I have let man take the throne of God.  It is self-defeating because as soon as I put something other than God on the throne of my heart, I can no longer have Victory.  

One of the verses I cherish is Isaiah 51:12-13:  “I, even I, am He who comforts you.  Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass, that you have forgotten the LORD your maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, as he makes ready to destroy?  But where is the fury of the oppressor?”

I have to ask myself that very question:  Where is the fury of the oppressor?  By fearing the oppressor, I give the oppressor the throne, which grants him power over me.  (You can also replace the word “oppressor” with “sin.”)  By fearing God, I give God the throne, which grants Him power over me.  Would you rather serve God or the oppressor?  My flesh answers, “Neither!  I will serve myself!”

This is a smart answer in the eyes of the world, but consider - do you oppress yourself?  I do.  I crush myself under my own thumb because my desires require perfection, and I am not perfect.  I must submit to God, and He will take care of me as I need to be taken care of.

I am reminded of the scene in C.S. Lewis’ allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children ask the beavers if Aslan is safe.  The famous truncated reply is, “ ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.”

It isn’t safe to put God on the throne of your heart.  Just ask Christian missionaries in the Middle East.  But, once put there, He will never do anything that isn’t for your good.  (Romans 8:28-29)

So how do we put Him on the throne of our heart?  

First, you must invite Him, and accept the gift of His son, Jesus, who was crucified in order to forgive your sins and bridge the gap between you and God that sin created.  (If you’d like to learn how, click here.)  This will also allow the Holy Spirit to begin a good work in you (Philippians 1:6), and will enable you to perform God’s two greatest commandments:  1) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37), and  2) “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)  

Second, you must “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness...” (Matthew 6:33).  Now if you’re like me, you’re wondering what exactly this phrase looks like in action.  A friend recently put it to me this way:  in whatever you are doing, ask yourself, “How can I serve the Lord in this?”  

For example, I am not seeking Christ first when I am worrying about something - say finances.  So how can I serve the Lord in my finances?  I can tithe, I can be a good steward of His money (because it really isn’t mine), and I can use it to care for God’s family.  (How you specifically use your money is between you and God, and will look different for every individual and family.  He doesn’t call us all to the same plan, but tailors it according to the giftings He has given us and circumstances in which He has placed us.)

So what does success look like for the Christian?  It is serving God for His purposes.  Will we fail?  Yes.  But God is greater than our failures, and will turn them for our good.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Answered Prayer

Philippians 2:13
"...for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to 
work for His good pleasure."


My husband, my son, and I went to my sister’s house to spend Thanksgiving with family. She lives nearly two hours away, which isn’t a big deal, but I’d never driven it before, and was a little leery of driving it in Thanksgiving traffic. My biggest fear was of tule fog on the way home. I had been a passenger in a car in tule fog before... I did not want to drive in tule fog!

The week leading up to Thanksgiving found me answering the common question: “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” I replied with the request to pray for no tule fog, and for a safe trip. As you can tell, I was a little anxious about it.

Thanksgiving came and it was time to make the drive. We got my one-year-old and his peripherals all packed into the car and set off. All-in-all, I don’t think there was really enough traffic to slow us down on the way to my sister’s, and I didn’t see anyone swerving, so God put my mind at ease about Thanksgiving traffic on our particular trek. Likely, the hardest part about it was trying to find a parking spot - which was really quite easy as soon as I noticed my sister directing me into her driveway.

To make a long story short, we had a wonderful and blessed time at their home. We enjoyed meeting her husband’s side of the family and my son got to meet a cousin who was only a couple months younger than he. My son melted hearts when he reached over and hugged his cousin. Time flew by and it was now time to make the drive back.

Now came the moment I had been anxious about... would there be any fog? Worse, would there be tule fog? My family was a little worried, too. We stepped outside of their comfortable home and into a mist... of fog. I looked about in worry and dismay, trying to gauge how thick it was. The street lights lit the fog in a damp yellow haze and I found it difficult to make out the house across the street.

Well... it wasn’t tule fog, but it certainly wasn’t a light fog. I didn’t know what it would be like on the road. My sister offered her home to stay the night, and I was tempted to accept, but my husband wanted to go home. So we headed out with the promise to return if we encountered tule fog.

I could feel my anxiety rising into my chest as my husband navigated me out of the neighborhood. The fog wasn’t getting any better. What if I couldn’t see someone walking across the street? What if we got far enough we couldn’t turn back? What if the fog thickened around us instead of just being a wall in front we could turn around and avoid? I tried to keep calm and not think of the what-ifs as I drove; an anxious driver isn’t a very good driver.


We got onto the highway. I could see the car in front of me... I could see a car a fair way behind me... I could see the street lights lighting other city streets with their yellow glow. This wasn’t so bad. But what if... no. Don’t think about the what-ifs.

About a minute later, the fog cleared, and the yellow lights made pools on the black streets instead of in the air. I could see the moon like another yellow pool of light in the sky. We left the city behind and the stars shone their tiny points of light through my window to form constellations. No fog.

I breathed deeply, trying to rid myself of the effects of my anxiety. I could just see God smiling down at me and saying, “You see? I know what you need. I could have taken care of you in the fog, too. But just to show you I love you, I took it all away.”

We didn’t encounter a single bit of fog during the rest of the two-hour ride home. In fact, it didn’t even take two hours, because there was so little traffic. Not only did He answer prayer about the fog, but for most of the ride home, I had only two other cars around me, and they were even going about my speed. It was an easier drive home than it had been heading over to my sister’s. God is so good.

The fact is, He always answers our prayers. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes (often it seems to be most of the time) His answer is the hardest one to take: wait. God knows my fears, my cares, my desires, and my needs. He also knows just how to allay my fears, take on my cares, align my desires with His, and meet my needs. It is toward these ends, as well as for His purposes and glory, that He will answer “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” I have no reason to be anxious. So I am thankful for answered prayer.


Just to show me His love, He didn’t prove to me yet again, that He can lead me through what I fear. This time, He let me off the hook and just said, “I love you.” Because it was 
His good pleasure.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

History


History isn’t fun for me when I have to memorize dates and write reports.  History is fun, though, when I get to hear the stories and to see God’s hand throughout time.  Today is Thanksgiving Day, and we in the United States typically associate this day with the story of the pilgrims who sailed to America and would have starved but for the indians who taught them how to survive, so that they reaped a successful harvest.

When I consider the differences between that time - nearly 400 years ago - and today, I am confronted by how things could have gone, and how God chose to orchestrate everything.  Everything He does is for a reason, and He doesn’t just sit idly by and watch our world like an ant farm.  He is active.

Consider a moment in your life that you tripped.  Did you trip because you were clumsy?  Did you, in fact, catch yourself?  What would have happened if you hadn’t tripped?  These questions may not always intrigue you, but I know it makes people think twice when they hear that a man escaped a bullet because he “happened” to trip at that moment.  Perhaps he barely caught himself to find that he might have fallen into the muck and ruined the suit he was wearing, which would have made him late to attend an important vote that might mean the end of human trafficking in his country.  And perhaps his is the vote that tips the scales.  

While this particular scenario may be a bit exaggerated (though I wouldn't put it past God), we have all heard stories of people narrowly escaping death because they tripped, or got sick and didn’t go to work that day, or got stuck in traffic (remember September 11, 2001).  We have also heard stories like someone ruining their clothes in a strange place, finding the love of their life at the store while buying new clothes, and deciding to live in that strange place, completely changing their plans for life.  God's plan didn't change.

God will use the fact that you "tripped" (or whatever may or  may not have happened) for His glory in some way.  Tripping is one tiny moment in your life... and God uses all of the moments of your life for His glory (whether you have the same aim or not).  

He doesn’t restrict this to your life, either.  He does this in every single life and in every single thing in the universe.  I cannot possibly fathom the Being who is able to orchestrate and keep track of that infinity and how each moment, person, and thing interrelates.

God works through the incredibly small things in our lives to direct the course of history.  I wonder at all of the little things that God orchestrated in the pilgrim’s lives to put them where they were for that Thanksgiving.  Imagine the sheer number of the little things that He has done in the lives of those in the world since then to bring us to where we are today.

You and I are precisely where God wants us to be.  And we always have been throughout history.  So I am thankful for history, and that it shows that God is God - and I am not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Radio


I know that we have internet radio now like Pandora and Spotify that allow us to listen to whatever music we desire.  Those radio stations, however, lack one thing:  DJ’s.  I love listening to K-LOVE, because not only is the music encouraging, but so are the DJ’s.

At work, or in the car, or while I’m cleaning the house, it can be easy to tune out the lyrics and just listen to the beat.  If a DJ comes on, I might not be fully listening - especially if I’m working on something - but some of what they say does get through.  What are they telling you?  Are they encouraging you or bringing you down?

That same question can be asked of who you hang out with.  In a rather distant and one-sided way, when you listen to the radio, you’re hanging out with the DJ’s, and allowing them to influence you.  I am thankful that God made radio waves so that we could have radio stations that allow us to be encouraged by other people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trees


Trees add a beauty to the landscape that no other type of plant can duplicate.  They add height and lush color (more often than not).  While on a high concrete overpass in Portland, Oregon I remember being unable to see most of the city’s buildings because they were hidden among the “canopy” of the myriad trees.

There is another reason that I am thankful for trees, though.  They exhibit a few lessons from God.  Consider the deciduous tree.  It grows new leaves in the spring, produces shade in the summer, turns vibrant colors in the fall, and becomes barren in the winter.  

We all have barren winters in our lives.  Yet without those winters, we wouldn’t have the time to rest and store up our energy to produce new explosive growth in the spring, in order to provide shade to others in the summer.  God gives each of us seasons of fall where He showcases our talents, or service, or heart for Him.  Yet we need those winters, during which we feel barren, but in truth, are just resting up for the upcoming seasons (which may or may not come in the traditional order).

One other lesson that I glean from trees comes from the way that they grow.  Their branches don’t always grow in a beneficial way - whether to themselves or to others.  They sprout suckers at their base that steal their energy and must be cut away.  They have branches that grow too low for others to find shade under that must be cut off.  Sometimes they have multiple trunks and must be cut and trained.  Whatever the case, a healthy and useful tree must be pruned.

When God prunes me, it hurts.  Yet it is for my own good.  Whether it’s to cut away the excess that is stealing my energy, or to put me to better use, or to hone my skills in a single area, or even to make me “prettier,” God has a reason for the pruning.  I can take comfort knowing that the pain will not last forever, and that it serves a real purpose.

Monday, November 19, 2012

God's Friendship

I love knowing that I’m never alone.  I love the peace of knowing that God is in control, and that all of my circumstances are within His power, and are determined by His love for me.  I love being able to talk to God - whenever.  He is always with me, by my side.  He guides me, He carries me, He walks beside me.  He loves me.


I am a friend of God.  Not because of anything I am or do.  Simply because, for whatever reason, He chose me.  His friendship doesn’t rely on me.  It relies on Him - and He is unchanging.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Brooding


Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

One of the reasons that I struggle with depression and anxiety is that I brood.  We don’t often use that word today, but it is a more apt verb than dwell.  Brooding is precisely what I do.  I continue to dwell on something that doesn’t lift me up - something that isn’t true, or that lacks honor, a wrong, something impure, or unlovely, or unworthy of praise, if you will.  (Philippians 4:8)  I take this thing and I brood over it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say don’t deal with sin and its consequences in your life.  You have to think about these things, but brooding is when you have passed the point of thinking about them productively, and moved into unproductive thoughts and feelings:  anger, fear, anxiety, depression, and so on.  This is one of the areas that I struggle in.

Most often I don’t realize that I have crossed the line of productive thinking.  I usually don’t catch myself until I am at least a little depressed.  From there, I can see deeper depression on the horizon, but it’s difficult to pull out at that point.  It doesn’t make it easier that I often forget the tools that God has given me to help.

The best thing that I have found so far, is to take the advice of Philippians 4:8, and to dwell on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, anything excellent or worthy of praise.  What better tool for that than the Bible?  If there’s a verse or passage that comes to mind that speaks to what I’m brooding on, that’s best.  If nothing comes to mind, then I can read passages like Philippians 4, Isaiah 51, Colossians 3, to name a few.  Sometimes I thumb through my Bible and read the highlighted passages.  It’s also best to pray during this time.

Then there are the times when I have sunk so low that I can’t focus on what I’m reading or praying.  My mind just keeps wandering back to brooding.  If I simply cannot take my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), then it is time for Distraction.  This is where I may stretch it when Paul says anything of excellence.  At that point, I am willing to look for anything of excellence to stop the downward spiral.  Most often, it’s a good movie or show, or a game with friends to take my mind off of the brooding.

I don’t always remember to follow this plan.  Just today, I forgot about my Bible.  However, I can rest in the knowledge that though I am not perfect, God is working on me.  That is a promise He has made (Philippians 1:6).  I pray that He helps me to listen to His thoughts, so that I don’t get caught up in my own so often.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Greeting Cards


Greeting cards provide an easy way to write a brief encouragement to someone.  Receiving one can really brighten your day.  Knowing that one you wrote brightened someone else’s day can really encourage you, too. 

Those who have the gift of encouragement often use greeting cards to extend their gift to others.  While I am not the best at encouragement, I have found that even having thought to send a greeting card to let a person know that you’re thinking of them can make a difference.  Greeting cards can give you a jump start on what to write, even if you don’t write much.  I am thankful for greeting cards, and that God gave so many people an artistic mind, so that there are a myriad cards to choose from.

I think greeting cards could be a useful tool to help me think of others more often.  To that end - and the end of encouraging those to whom I send a card - I am going to begin writing and mailing one greeting card per week.  When I write it, I will also pray for the person.  Would you like to join me in my little endeavor?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hymns


I struggled a little more with selfishness this morning.  It started with cooking breakfast for my family.  I was in someone else’s kitchen (though I’m there often), and I still don’t have timing down when it comes to cooking.  I ended up burning some of the bacon, cooking the toast a little more than I liked, frying the eggs longer than I liked, and not getting the sausage quite warm enough.

“I thought breakfast was good,” my husband stated, his tone genuine.
“Well I didn’t,” I replied off-handedly.
“Well I did.”  I could hear the frustration and slight indignation in his voice, and knew that I wasn’t taking his desires into account.  I was frustrated simply because things weren’t going the way that I wanted them to.

This struggle lasted for a significant portion of the day.  I plunged into work, not wanting to think about it, but my focus hadn’t changed, so neither had my feelings.  I noted that my selfishness was prominent enough in my demeanor to show if someone came into my office.  There were two occasions when someone did enter, and I took special care to be friendly, but knew that my heart attitude was still in the wrong place.

There are times when I can use obedience in being friendly and helpful to others to change my focus and my attitude, but they weren’t around long enough to force me in that direction, and I wasn’t disciplined enough to try to continue with the demeanor.  It wasn’t until a special function took place later in the day that God got a hold of me with a hymn.  I wish I could remember which hymn it was, but I suppose that isn’t important.  The important thing is that hymns most often have a Christ-centered message that focuses more on God than on our worship of Him.

We sang a phrase that reminded me that my just, loving, and merciful God is in control.  My frustration simply melted away in the relaxed and contented knowledge that God is God and I am not.  I wish I wouldn’t deviate from that focus, but alas, I am a sinner, and fall far short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  I praise Him that He is at work in my life - and that He is the One in control of that work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Air Filters


I don’t like being able to see the dust in the air in my house.  You know when the golden sun shines through your window and you think “How pretty” until you see all of the dust particles in its rays.  I know that there will always be dust in my home no matter how hard I try (and I must admit that’s pretty low on the priority list), but I am glad that air filters can take out at least some of it.

My husband replaced the air filter on our heater the other day and the old one was rather filthy.  While it might be nasty to think about all the dust that had accumulated on it, I am still thankful that it did accumulate on it and not on my furniture.  Air filters are one way that God filters out a little bit of my mess without me doing anything.  He is always working for me behind the scenes, cleaning up bits of my mess that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Experienced Moms


My son experienced his first major wound today.  He was quite the trooper!

Some extended family came into town and the five related families (including us) got together to enjoy some time with one another.  This means that there were several moms in the room.  

My son enjoyed playing with the other kids, from three months younger to four years older, and bounced back and forth between the adults.  I gave him a bottle, but let him run around with it, as I knew he wouldn’t go to sleep with so many people around.  The living room where we congregated has a large couch forming a corner with two plush chairs, and a low round table with a marble top that serves as the coffee table.  

My son was running around the table with his bottle in his mouth when he tripped and fell.  He hit the table with his mouth (I think) and bounced onto the floor.  I immediately picked him up to console him, and another mother informed me that he was bleeding.  I soon discovered that the blood was pooling in his mouth, and another mother (a grandmother, in fact) quickly wet a washcloth with cold water for him to suck on.

He was definitely in pain, but though he was crying, he wasn’t flailing.  I tried to comfort him and get him to suck on the cloth, but he wasn’t interested.  I managed to wipe the blood away, but more covered the area in less than a second.  I saw that part of the wound was on the outside.  It didn’t occur to me that his teeth might have gone through his lip until one of the mother’s asked if they had.  My heart sank as I realized one of his teeth had.

She was calm and collected and told me that the same thing had happened to her son, and that as long as the teeth weren’t loose, he would be fine.  No, I didn’t need to take him to the emergency room; mouths heal very quickly, and babies heal even faster.  I just needed to stop the bleeding and clean the wound.

This was comforting, though I was a little unsure, as I know that deep wounds require stitches as a general rule.  However, I trusted this mom and saw the results from her child having been through it.  I found it difficult to keep pressure on the wound, since my son didn’t want the cloth on his mouth.  This made it take longer to stop the bleeding, which made me a little anxious.  I felt a little more pressure to take care of him correctly since we weren’t planning on going to the ER.

However, the bleeding did stop.  I felt very blessed having all those moms around me who had been through these kinds of things before.  They didn’t crowd me with advice, but gave suggestions when appropriate, and helped out with fetching things and entertaining my son to take his mind off of the pain.  I am so glad that I am not the first mom in the world, and that God has placed me in the company of so many other experienced moms.  They calmed my anxieties, showed me what to do, and saved my son from a trip to the ER that would not have been the most pleasant of his experiences.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Time at Home


My husband and I really enjoy spending time with people.  This is important - and fun - but we have found that it has gotten a little out of hand in relation to the amount of time that we spend with just each other.  We live 25 minutes out of town and 45 minutes away from our church, so it’s a matter of logistics (and indulgence) that we don’t spend much time at home.

We made a decision to go straight home after my work (and for me to get off an hour earlier) on Mondays and Wednesdays.  This means that we’ll have to (*gasp*) cook our own dinner those nights instead of eating my mother-in-law’s yummy cooking right after work, and that we won’t have anyone else to help us take care of my year-old son during that time.  I’ll admit that the prospect of going home after work has been a little daunting to me for awhile primarily for those two reasons.  However, we did just that this past week, and it was lovely!  

I haven’t fully felt as though we are our own family.  We spend so much time with his family or with other people that we seem to be more of an extension.  This past week I got a taste of what it feels like to have my own little immediate family of three.  I also feel like I’m actually living out of my own home rather than moving my things from place to place to get bills, etc. taken care of.  Even though I have the added stress of cooking and no help with my child, the decreased stress from the above two issues more than makes up for it.

It helps, too, that my expectations in regard to cooking have taken on a rather more practical and realistic tone since I first married my husband seven years ago.  I thought then that I would be cooking full home-cooked meals every night for my family.  I have found that this lifestyle that I expected doesn’t fall in with who we are as a couple, nor with my particular abilities.  (Not to say that I don’t ever cook a full meal...)  This realization relieves quite a bit of pressure.  Neither of us expects some great dinner - and that’s just fine - because having a great dinner isn’t the point of coming home.

God drove us toward this decision to stay home, and has really opened a new chapter in our lives with it.  My husband and I have more opportunity to grow closer and to understand one another better.  Knowing each other better makes me more thankful to God for the gift of my husband.  It also points out to me the importance of relationship - and that I don’t give God enough time in my relationship with Him.  It is something that must be prioritized - no matter the stress it may impose - because the stress that it will relieve will outweigh any possible stress created.

Who do you spend your time with?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Keyboards


While I am thankful for Handwriting, I am also thankful for keyboards.  Paper and pen (or pencil, as suits your fancy) take far more time than a keyboard to write out a composition.  This is, of course, why it’s so special to receive something handwritten.  

They are also handy when they’re backlit... like on a Laptop, which allows you to write in the dark without trying to position or hold a flashlight... unless, of course, you’re in a place with a light, in which case it’s just faster...

At any rate, the fact that it’s faster makes it easier not to forget what I was planning on writing.  Sometimes I will be writing a sentence by hand and forget the wording that I wanted to use.  Then I focus on trying to remember the wording, or on rehashing it, and forget where I was going with it.  My train derails easily.  

This happens less with a keyboard.  I am thankful that God placed me in a time when a keyboard is readily available to me, so that I don’t have to work through my fumbling memory as often.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Written Word


I suppose as a writer it would be only natural for me to be thankful for the written word.  Without the written word, we writers would be in want... wretched, woeful want.  (I couldn’t resist.)  

The written word has so many uses.  We use it to convey our thoughts and to be known by others.  We use it to write instructions.  We detail our desires in wish lists, or in wills for posterity.  We express love or encouragement in letters, teach on various subjects, lose ourselves in stories, learn about our Savior, or simply revel in the art of the written word (whether visual or intellectual).

I am thankful that God created it for us, or we would have a much harder time locating the knowledge (or the fiction) that we seek.  Finding the right person is much harder than finding the right book.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Laptops


Laptops are just handy.  Especially nowadays when you can take one to your nearest Starbucks or internet cafe and access just about anything you might need on your laptop on the internet.  You can jot down some notes, write an essay, budget your money, pay your bills, book a trip - name almost anything and you can do it from your laptop these days.

I love having a laptop because of the mobility, which creates flexibility.  It doesn’t matter where I am when my blog needs to be written, because my laptop is always with me.  As long as there’s some power left in the battery, I can write.  I can also listen to some mood music, which is another little handy feature.  Pop in some Headphones and I can almost create my own little atmosphere away from home.

This allows me to make the most of my time.  For instance, I often write my blog postings while I’m in the car and my husband is driving us home.  I couldn’t do this with pen and paper, because it’s too dark, and a light would distract my husband.  However, turn the brightness down on a laptop screen (which I like anyway, since it’s so dark outside), and voila!  Instant access to a means to put thoughts to “paper.”  

So I thank God for laptops, that He has provided a way for me to be able to spend quality time with my husband while I am at home and still get to bed at a decent time.  Without it, I would have to nix my blog, but God has been using my blog in my life toward many good ends.  It has helped me begin to discipline my mind to seek Him in more of life each day; to have a discipline of writing each day - something I rather enjoy; and through these, God has caused me to grow.  It’s neat to see how God uses things in our lives.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Schedules

My son is now a year old and my husband and I have rethought his schedule.  He used to go to sleep at 8pm and wake up around 7am.  We’ve been wanting more time together, and with Daylight Savings ending, we got to switch our clocks back an hour.  

What does this mean for us?  That my son gets to go to sleep at 7pm (which is really the same time) and wake up at 6:30am (only a half hour later).  We get more time together while he’s asleep at night, and are now waking up when we were originally intending to wake up.  I know that the hour back works to many toddler’s parents’ detriment in having to wake up super early, but it actually worked in our favor.  The Lord is gracious.

Toward the beginning of my son’s life, we had a pretty on-demand schedule for him.  He would eat at about this time and I didn’t have a handle on when he slept.  When we started to get him onto more of a schedule, we discovered how wonderful it is.  It truly is important to prioritize your relationship with your spouse, and a schedule makes that so much easier.

So I am thankful for schedules, and that God created time the way that He did.  We often feel that we don’t have enough, but I think that’s part of God’s way of teaching us how to discipline ourselves and to budget our time.  Keeping priorities is vital.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sleep


I am thankful for sleep, that it rejuvenates not only the body, but the mind.  I am thankful that we can sleep on things and sometimes come out on the other end with a clearer head.  I am thankful that we can go to sleep having had a bad day or night and wake up feeling refreshed and at peace.  I am thankful that God created sleep.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pools

I love getting into the water.  Especially if it’s heated a little.  The absolute perfect time to get in the pool is about 9:00pm, give or take a half hour.  It’s the end of the day and I don’t have to rush to get things done.  The water is usually at its warmest and the sun isn’t bearing down on me as I swim.  I love the stillness of the night, and water adds to that relaxing feeling of stillness for me.

Another reason I love getting into the water is that it lifts the weight off of my joints.  I have fibromyalgia, and my neck is also straight, so it feels heavenly to take the weight off.  Few other things - if any - are able to do that.  It’s one of the few places that exercise can actually feel good.

I am grateful that God created something that can so completely help me to relax while not quashing - but rather perpetuating - the desire to exercise.  It feels so good that I want to swim, to move my muscles, to stretch, and to play.  The trick is more along the lines of finding a pool that’s available and having the ability to get to it at that time of night!  Yet God knows all things and “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28b)

I relish the times that He gives me the opportunity to swim at night, and I am content knowing that He has something else in mind for my exercise and care - at least for now.  What are some things He uses to help you relax?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekly Impressions - The Gospel


John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

I used to think that I was supposed to constantly remember what Jesus went through on the cross for me.  However, God has shown me that this perspective isn’t really what He had in mind.  Certainly, I am not trying to play down that portion of what He did for me, and it’s important to know and to understand the depth of His love for me shown within that.  I find, however, that dwelling on the agony that Christ went through on the cross doesn’t lift me up, it brings me down.  

Dwelling on what He saved me from and the fact that He saved me from it, lifts me up.  The fact that He pulled me from the depths of the blindness and hopelessness and consequences of sin gives me cause to rejoice.  I am no longer subject to a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 - “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”)

I recently read a brief summary of a book called “A Gospel Primer for Christians” by Milton Vincent that presented the idea that Christians need to preach the gospel to themselves daily.  The reasoning is so that we would be constantly living in the joy of the Good News.  I don’t personally have a large helping of the gift of evangelism, but I have seen this joy in those who do, and it makes perfect sense to me.

The focus of the first point of view - of dwelling on what Christ went through for me - is on myself.  It brings me down because I am focused on what Christ had to go through to save me, on what my sin did to Him.  Rather, I should focus on the fact that He chose to save me, and what He saved me from.  The focus is thus upon God, not me.  It’s what God did, not what I did.  I will not perish, because He saved me and gave me everlasting life.

Are you a struggling child of God?  Me, too.  Let’s begin to list the things that God has done for us, beginning with sending His only begotten Son to save you and me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Washing Machines


Whoever figured out how to make a machine that would wash your clothes for you was a genius.  I have never had to hand wash my clothes with a wash board, and for this I am very thankful.  

The beauty of a washing machine for me, is that it continues to work after I’ve gone to bed.  All I have to do is pop the clothes in, choose the settings, pour in some soap, and hit start.  Lord knows how much time I would have to spend on this mandatory chore if I had to do it by hand.  I don’t have the time to fold the laundry as it is!  

So I am thankful that God orchestrates the rate at which we grow technologically, and what machines are invented around the same time as one another, lest we entirely lose the balance of being able to at least do the chores necessary to continue our lives.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Windows


I love windows.  I love being able to see outside - or even inside somewhere else, because I’m not so enclosed.  Windows allow me to see outside of my own little world.  Whether I’m at work in my office, or at home in my living room, they remind me that the world is bigger than my own little box.

Too often I let my focus draw in when I’m enclosed.  The visual enclosures around me reflect the mental enclosure with which I enhance the physical walls.  In a way, I use the walls as an excuse to focus on myself.  Windows help to remind me that mine isn’t the only world that exists.  That reminder is enough to help me begin to shift the mental focus off of myself.  Besides, just as I like be able to see outside so that I don’t feel so enclosed, I like being focused on other things besides myself.  Being focused on myself is a trap.

This is only the beginning, as I need to put more effort into what to replace my self focus with:  focus on God.  Windows don’t always shift my focus by any means, but I am thankful for the visual reminder that God has created in windows.