Thursday, January 31, 2013

Headbands


My grandmother taught me how to Knit and crochet as a child, and I discovered that I rather enjoyed it.  There are a number of things out there that one can knit or crochet, but I enjoy creating things that have practical purposes.  Headbands are one of those.

Up until two years ago, my hair was always long - usually below my waist.  I love the feel of my hair much like I love the feel of long falling fabric.  During the 90’s I wore my hair in a headband almost every day so that I could feel the length, but still keep it out of my face.  I had not, however, begun to make headbands; they were all store-bought.

In high school, headbands were out of style and the claw clips were in.  I used those and barrettes, but though my hair was thick, it was also slippery.  The clips and barrettes wouldn’t usually last a whole day and I was constantly dealing with my hair.  

I noticed recently (in the past few years) that knit and crocheted clothing accessories have really come into style, and decided to try my hand at a few simple headbands.  Simple, because flowers aren’t my style.  The result?  I am back to wearing headbands most days.  They’re just so practical.  They also look appealing enough.  It’s a little more fun, now, too, with being able to make my own designs and thus make exactly what I want.  (I am also missing my long hair and growing it out again.)

I am thankful for headbands, that God created a way to accessorize that’s actually practical, and that I can alter to express my own “style.”  (My friends might laugh at that.)  I can even use it for a ponytail holder in a pinch.  It is such a simple thing, but very useful in its own right.  It is fun to marvel at the fact that God imagined all of these things and planned for them long before He created the world.  Thank You, Lord, for being detail-oriented!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pillows


I’m having one of those days where the pain from my fibromyalgia is a little worse.  While I am disappointed that it meant that I couldn’t go for my walk around the lake at lunch today, God orchestrated events so that my husband brought me lunch at work and I got to spend some time with him.  In other words, I wouldn’t have gone for my walk anyway, and I got to enjoy a special lunch with my sweetie.

Earlier in the day, the pain was mostly in my knee, but as the day progressed, the pain spread to my back, making it a little harder.  Tuesdays are a longer day for me, as I attend my Community Group after work.  I wasn’t about to skip out on my Community Group, and when I got there, I realized that there were several pillows on the couch.  My friends offered me a chair, but that Comfy Couch looked pretty inviting.  

It would have been heavenly to lie down, but that would have taken up all of the room for others to sit, not to mention I wouldn’t have been able to participate as well.  So instead, I claimed the couch corner and arranged several small pillows in such a way that I could still recline into the corner without gravity compressing my back so much.  It worked perfectly!  The pillows helped to alleviate the pain a bit, which helped me to participate more and enjoy the company and thoughts of the others in the group.

I am glad to rest in the knowledge that God has a reason for my pain.  The fact that He doesn’t let me in on the reason is all the more reason to rely upon Him.  In the meantime, He also provides everything that I need.  Tonight, it was pillows.  I am thankful for pillows, that God used them to help me fellowship and learn more about Him.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Confession


Confession has always seemed a little strange to me.  I understood that I needed Christ’s forgiveness, and that the Bible says that I should confess my sins to God, but I wasn’t really sure what that looked like.  I would ask God to forgive my sins, knowing that I sin daily, but it wasn’t like I was outright lying to someone or murdering them.  Big sins needed to be confessed individually, and little ones could be confessed generally.  I didn’t commit big sins very often.

God has been changing my outlook bit by bit.  First, He showed me that there really isn’t much difference between “big” sins and “little” sins.  Just because I didn’t lie, didn’t mean that I didn’t break the ninth commandment; I didn’t tell the whole truth.  Just because I didn’t lie in bed with a man didn’t mean that I didn’t break the seventh commandment by thinking about him that way.  Just because I didn’t bury an axe in my “enemy’s” head didn’t mean that I didn’t break the sixth commandment by hating him rather than loving him.  Also, “the wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23a), which means that no matter how “big” or “little” my sin, the penalty is the same.  Death.  God revealed this little bit of wisdom to me during high school.

Second, He started showing me that being self-deprecating wasn’t the same as being humble.  Christ didn’t practice humility by being self-deprecating.  He “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8b)  May I have that kind of humility in obedience to God.  My self-deprecation only led to guilt and depression.

Third, this definition of humility began to bring out just how prideful I really am.  In fact, my sins in general started becoming far more apparent.  I had recognized my selfishness and my worry, but my pride - which manifested itself in fear, worry, selfishness, depression, and need to control and manipulate - had disguised itself well in my own deceitful heart.  “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Fourth, and recently, He is beginning to bring about a new understanding of confession in me.  I have previously experienced the healing that confessing my sins to Him can bring.  A youth pastor once made the analogy that with each sin, we place another brick that builds a wall between us and our holy Creator.  Until we confess those sins and are bestowed with His gracious forgiveness, we alienate ourselves from Him and His Grace.  

Now that I can more readily recognize my own sin, I am now confronted with the ability - and need - to confess those sins specifically, and to ask for His forgiveness for them.  To have a relationship with God, I cannot just ask for a general forgiveness of all of my sins and leave it there.  That isn’t personal, and it robs from Him the opportunity of giving the gift of His Son to me - the One who died and rose again to conquer the very sin that I am confessing.  That, in turn, robs me of the Joy of the Lord.  

I wondered why the same word “confess” was used in admitting our sin, and also in professing Christ.  In writing this, God showed me that confessing my sin is confessing Christ.  I confess that I am a sinner and cannot atone for my own sin, and thus I confess that I am a follower of Christ, Who took my sins upon Himself - even though He was blameless - and paid the penalty for them (death), and rose again to conquer even death and prepare a place for me to join Him in that everlasting life.

He did - and is doing - so much for me.  How can I be anything but thankful?  So I am thankful for confession, for the amazing gift to be able to give over my sins and profess Christ, my Savior.  This is Where the Healing Begins.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Faith


One of the things that God has been impressing upon me lately is the importance of turning my eyes toward Him.  It is just like when Peter went out onto the water with Jesus.  As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink.

I personalize it just a little more in my metaphor of the precipice (see About This Blog).  In my struggle with depression, I have often felt as though I were walking along a knife-edge precipice in the dark with death and sin below on either side.  Above is the kingdom of God, but it seems out of reach in this life.  The light of heaven doesn’t seem to pierce the void of darkness surrounding me.  I can look down and see where I need to step on the precipice, but if my ankle were to turn, I would fall - and if I step too hard, I may cut my foot.  Faith in this place is to look up at God on His throne and to take the next step.

Looking up is a good way to throw off my balance and fall, but God isn’t concerned with gravity.  As long as I look to Him, He will guide my next step.  If I look down, the sin of worry grips me, even though I can see where to step.  The step itself worries me.  Not to mention the fall into the abyss filled with monsters of the past and unknown worries of the future.  I do not see God in the darkness around me, or the precipice before me, or the sin and death below me - I see Him above.  Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

God did not intend us to walk this life alone.  He walked with Adam in the garden.  Though we can’t see Him anymore, He walks with us still, if we accept Him His gift.  Even if life were a dark abyss with a precipice to walk like a tight-rope, God would still be right beside me.  

It is difficult to readily see Him when I look at the things of this world.  That is part of why I am seeking Him in thankful things.  It is partly an exercise to see His work in this world.  Yet when I get caught up in the cares and worries of this world, the best place to look is up - as backwards as that may seem to take the next step.

I am thankful that God gave us faith, to be able to lay our anxiety at His feet and say, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord.”  Is there something that you need to give Him today?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekly Impressions - Will You Forgive Me?


In this journey, I am seeking how God is working in my life (and, or in the world) through the things that I’m thankful for.  I can see different manifestations - especially metaphorically - but I should be sharing what God is sharing with me, not just making my own point.  I have, again, let it get to the point of having something to say personally above what God is saying to me.  (I previously wrote about this in Weekly Impressions - Distraction.)

My grandfather modeled to me what it was to share what God was sharing with him.  I hadn’t really thought about it that way until he died.  He was a cool grandfather and a powerful tool of the Lord.  (You can see more about him in Sunsets.)  God, in showing me this, has stirred in me the desire to proclaim upon the housetops what He has whispered in my ear (Matthew 10:27).

I am thankful that I am getting to the point where, though I realize that I have overstepped myself in my pride, I am not falling into depression because of it.  Yes, I have sinned, but I can ask God’s forgiveness, repent, and move on.  I recognize that I will fall into this particular pit again, but that, too, is to God’s glory, because it helps to humble me, and shows how much I need the Savior.

I hope you have enjoyed and been encouraged by what I have previously written, but I want to apologize that I let my pride become the motivation behind it.  Will you forgive me?

Lord, I pray that this can be a beneficial example to others of Your will at work in the life of one of Your children.  May Your glory be evident in my life.  Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Disposable Diapers

Psalm 147:7-8
“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises to our God on the lyre,
Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who provides rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.”


I've never tried cloth diapers and have heard great things about them. However - at least in my ignorance - I am much happier to use disposable diapers. I would use cloth diapers if I had to, but I'd much rather spend the extra money to be able to throw them away in a covered trash can.

You see, God made me with a sense of smell that affects my stomach. Diapers can be a rather unpleasant experience - especially if the experience is prolonged. So I am thankful for disposable diapers, that God provided a way to accommodate my sensitivities (and provided the money to acquire it!). When I look for it, He amazes me with how often He provides things I don't necessarily need, but might desire or make life a little easier.

What everyday luxury helps you with a sensitivity or desire?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Covered Trash Cans

Philippians 1:6
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."


I am so glad we have covered trash cans to hide the smells of our trash. Poopy diapers, for example. That’s a pretty powerful smell. A really nasty powerful smell. Call me lazy, but it’s really nice not to have to take the dirty diaper - and our son - outside to the trash company’s can (which is also covered) every time I change him so the stench doesn’t permeate my entire home.

Of course, if we don’t eventually take the trash out, cover or no, it will spread its smell. I've noticed the same in my spiritual walk. If I don’t take the trash out, no matter how much I cover over it, the smell will leak out. Whether it’s bitterness, selfishness, pride, worry... if not brought before God and dealt with, they decompose and I begin to reek even to those around me.

I think God gives us spiritual covered trash cans out of mercy, simply because we have so much trash we couldn’t possibly deal with it all at once. So it sits until the time is right, and the smell begins to leak out. If I am stubborn and don’t deal with it, the smell worsens until I am forced to deal with it or cease functioning. At least, that's been my experience.

I have a tendency not to notice my own spiritual trash until the smell slams into my senses. (Sometimes not even until someone else smells it and I notice their reaction.) I’ll start to feel my heart beat a little faster, or I’ll snap at someone. I catch a whiff of that powerful stench and take a good look at what I’m thinking about. Usually, it’s my poopy diaper of worry. Worry is one of the most difficult for me. (You can see more on that in Impressions - Worry and Meditation.)

I would love to be able to catch myself earlier - and God is leading me there. I can look back and see God has brought me further than when I just sat in the stench of worry, and slowly lost my ability to function. Thank God for His grace, mercy, and love! Praise the Lord He continues His work in us, so we can choose Him, and see spiritual change over time!

I am thankful for covered trash cans, as another medium of God’s glory and grace. Have you noticed your nose wrinkling lately?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cars

Philippians 4:11
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."


I appreciate cars for their transportation capabilities, but I also appreciate their luxuries. I don’t own a luxury car, but I think your average car has plenty of what can be seen as luxuries. I spend a fair amount of time in the car with a 45-minute drive to work. When you spend 1.5 hours a day in a small space, you begin to appreciate the parts of it that don’t make it difficult.

Heaters, for instance. (Of course I’d go there, first.) Heat makes for a pleasant atmosphere. The seats aren’t the plushest and don’t have all the adjustments of a luxury car, but they are comfortable, and I don’t find myself shifting because of the seat. The radio is nice to have, also. I enjoy having the music and DJ’s of K-Love in the background to help encourage me in Christ. I also like the fact I can carpool with my husband part of the way, which allows me to work on my blog and be productive during travel. This wouldn’t be possible without cars and laptops. Cars also broaden our pool of job opportunities, and - though small - are a workable space.

I am thankful God created cars, for the opportunities they provide, and small luxuries while traveling. I am thankful to be content with and grateful for the luxuries I have in mine. May God guide ours and your travels in safety.

What has God provided that gives you one or more opportunities? Or what small luxuries are you content with, that not all people may see as luxuries?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mediums

Romans 11:36
"For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the 
glory forever. Amen."


Art has a variety of mediums - from canvas to paper to marble to the abstract. These things are all used to convey a picture, idea, or statement. God brought to my attention that if “...from Him and through Him and to Him are all things...” (Romans 11:36), then everything is a medium for His glory.

We see His glory through His creation, through His people, and, though it is often harder to see, through the day-to-day things, interactions between people, and even in death and sin. “And we know that God causes all things [emphasis added] to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) These sufferings and agonies are for our good and His glory. No purpose of God’s can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

Sometimes in a painting we see the agony and pain of a battlefield, but the overarching theme is the victory of a king. Yet the pain and agony in the painting was necessary to convey what the king went through and how great was his victory. This is a poor example, but one that may open our eyes to see the battle raging in this world - and our victorious King of Kings. He uses more than a canvas and oil to convey this glory; the entire world is His.

I am thankful for mediums, that all things are a medium for God’s glory. This is why there is such victory in Christ. He is not only over and above all things, but He is right here with you and in everything that happens. I cannot truly wrap my mind around that, but I know it for truth. Our God is an awesome God. To Him be the glory forever!

Look around you. In what do you see His glory? Keep looking!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Emotions

Psalm 139:23-24
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."


God created us as emotional beings (we even  see His own emotions throughout Scripture). True, we are not to be led only by our emotions, but neither are we to shut them off. An indicator God has shown me as to whether or not my emotions are “right” is the motive behind the emotion. God always checks the heart. If my emotion is fueled by a total focus upon myself, it is born of pride. As soon as I lose focus on His glory, my emotions - and my thoughts - are subject to lead me astray.

Though we may try, we cannot simply shut off our sinful emotions. God does, however, gives us the power to overcome them - but how? He has shown me redirecting my focus is absolutely key. If I am afraid someone is going to hate me because of something I say, where is my focus? It’s on myself, and wanting to be loved and accepted. Wanting to be loved and accepted isn’t a bad thing - but why I am seeking it from man first? This is placing my fear in man.

But “who am I that I am afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass, that I have forgotten the Lord my Maker[?]” (Isaiah 51:12b-13a - I changed all the you's to I's.) Rather, I should “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Namely, God. (You can see more on this in Weekly Impressions - Fear.) By redirecting my focus - and in this case, at least, my emotion, fear - upon the One who sustains me, I can align myself with His will through His Divine Power.

Emotions can be Warning Signals of a strayed focus. They can also be indicators we are on the right path. The key is to examine the motive behind it - and be honest with yourself. “‘The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind...’” (Jeremiah 17:9-10a). Ask God to reveal your heart to you. He will... and it isn’t always easy to face.

I am thankful for emotions, that God gave them to us for a reason. I am glad God does not wish us to stuff them, nor to boast in them, but to use them for His glory. May we fix our eyes upon Jesus.

What takes your focus off of God? What brings your focus back to Him?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekly Impressions - Forgiveness

Psalm 32:5
"I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'; and You forgave the guilt of 
my sin. Selah."


I had a particularly difficult time as I struggled with my pride the other day. Everywhere I turned, I faced my pride. I couldn’t escape it, and I couldn’t change it. It made for a very frustrating and depressing day. I was able to cling to the knowledge the feelings would pass, but I was searching for what would help me change my attitude and be more humble. I could still be prideful in my obedience, and even in thinking about others.

It came later - and a bit after the fact - when I was discussing the issue with my husband. He queried if I had asked God forgiveness for my pride. That stopped me in my tracks. No... no, I hadn’t. It’s such a simple beginning - and the first I should go to - but it simply doesn’t register on my radar yet. The very act of asking for forgiveness is humbling. Certainly, it isn’t the be-all end-all answer, but it is a great beginning.

I confessed my sin right then and there and asked for His forgiveness. By this time, my pride wasn’t as prominent, so it didn't have as immediate a benefit as it would have in the moment, but God is always there to forgive us - and forgiveness is always healing.

Now I just need to come up with a way to help me remember asking forgiveness is the first place I need to go. I am so glad when I fail, God is right there waiting to point me back in the right direction. That might hurt sometimes, but it is always for my good and His glory.


Do you need healing through confession? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Electric Blankets

Matthew 6:31-32
"Do not worry then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things."


I am a heat fiend. My husband says I “suck the warmth away” with my freezing extremities. I believe it, too. I can feel what he’s talking about.

We have one of those mattress pads similar to an electric blanket and I love it. Yet no matter how warm it is to start, my feet soak it up so quickly, it can’t keep up. So I shift my feet around, soaking in the little pockets of heat. It makes for an odd little nighttime dance during which I try not to wake my husband.

My husband just repaired the cord on my electric blanket from the dog having it chewed it a long time ago. My new plan is to have both my electric blanket and my heated mattress going at the same time. It probably still won’t be enough warmth to keep up with the initial “heat sucking,” but the process of warming my feet to a comfortable sleeping temperature should be faster. I’m jazzed! Now I can also use my electric blanket before I get in bed to start the process sooner. I’ve used it the past couple of nights and it’s been wonderful. I want to just leave it on high and enjoy the bliss. Then, however, I start to sweat - which is funny, because I still want more heat. Yep, I’m a heat fiend.

I thank God for electric blankets to help my cold-blooded body (I know there are others out there). So I enjoy my little creature comforts and am reminded yet again of Jehovah-jireh - the Lord will provide. He is so faithful to provide what we need... and I'm beginning to see how much else He provides for His and our pleasure. When I stop looking at what I don't have, and realize what He has already given, everything changes.

How has He provided beyond your needs?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doors

Hebrews 12:1c-2
"...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."


It’s surprising how much we take doors for granted. I lived without interior doors in my home for about three years (except in the bathroom) - when it was just my husband and me. Once we had our son, and after the initial period of the baby in the same room, we discovered just how much we really did want doors. The privacy, ability to muffle sound, and to keep a little munchkin in a safe place while you take a break... doors are a beautiful thing.

I can’t imagine what life would be like without exterior doors. Cold, hot, arachnids, rodents and snakes... strangers... shudder! I am very glad we have doors!

Then there are the metaphorical doors. An open door and an opportunity, a closed door and a decision you don’t have to make. The metaphorical doors give us little hints as to where God is leading. It’s true a lot of closed doors can be very discouraging, but bear in mind - God is in control, and He always has the best in mind for you. He always answers prayer, and He will guide you in His victory.

I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but I encourage you to “look full in His wonderful face” during those times. Don’t squint away, or get distracted by the waves around you. Truly look full into His face, and see “the light of His glory and grace.” (Quotes from the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”)

I am reminded me of the song by Jamie Grace “I Love the Way You Hold Me.” As I walk through this life, I see more and more how His hands hold me. It isn’t that they hold me now more than they used to; I’m seeing it more. He holds me every moment. Open doors - and closed doors - are one of the ways He holds me. I am thankful for the many uses doors have, and for the direction God gives us with the metaphorical ones.

What doors has He opened and closed in your life? Do you see it in the light of His glory and grace? Do you trust Him?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Son

Matthew 18:4
"Whoever then humbles himself as this child, is the greatest in 
the kingdom of heaven."


You have heard a fair amount about our son by now. He primarily hears how cute he is! The Lord has blessed us tremendously in our son. He has an incredibly sweet temperament, was a pretty easy baby, and often listens when we tell him, “No.” God has used Little Man to brighten our lives and teach us many things.

So here’s where I get to brag on how God is creating our son. Little Man has danced since it was possible, squatting, or turning in circles while looking out of the corner of his eyes as though trying to spot.  He smiles readily. I thought smiles were infectious before, but around him they’re an epidemic. You can’t help but smile when he opens his mouth in his toothy little grin, often accompanied by a laugh. I can’t tell if he’s going to be an engineer, an athlete, or both. He shows the mind of an engineer in his voracious curiosity to see how things work. As soon as you show him how to use something, he understands it, and the only thing stopping him from doing it is fine motor skills (dangerous!). He started walking at eight months, and has always been on the go. Mommy and Daddy can have a hard time keeping up!

It is amazing how much God teaches us through our children. He says we are to be like children in some things, and now that I have my own child, I better understand what He means. I can see so much of my own sinful and naive behavior toward God when our son does the same to us, and it really helps to humble me. I am thankful for many things in our son, but I think I am most thankful for the joy God uses him to remind me of, and for what the Lord is teaching me through him.

What has the Lord shown you through the children in your life?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Compost

Psalm 77:11-12
"I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I shall remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds."


I was on my usual walk around the lake at lunch, contemplating my thankful thing for the day, when I noted the dead leaves on the ground. I was not particularly thankful for them that moment, but God purposed them for something. So I considered: how I could be thankful for dead leaves? I remembered gathering the decomposing leaves from my grape vine a few days earlier. I had marveled at how quickly they had begun to decompose and at what great compost it would make; I promptly added it to my composter. Thinking about compost made me wonder...

God did not create things to die at the outset - death entered the scene when sin did. How did dead leaves fit in? Did God originally make the trees without leaves that fell and died? Since the Bible says He created all plants and creeping things on the earth, He must have already created each species, including the bacteria that process dead leaves, as well as the trees whose leaves fall. This is not to say God couldn’t have created their leaves to be evergreen and it wasn't a result of sin. In which case, if the bacteria didn’t eat the leaves, did they eat something else, like all of today’s meat-eaters? I really don’t know. I can’t imagine a world without Fall, but God could have done anything. It was fun to consider!

Either way, it is all part of God’s grand design. If sin caused the leaves to die, then God caused it to work for good, since the bacteria process the leaves into compost to replenish the ground with nutrients. If God originally designed it that way... well, then God originally designed it so, and that in itself is pretty amazing. God’s imagination is truly something to behold.

I am thankful for compost, that God designed a use for the aftermath of the beautiful Fall season. I am thankful, too, that God gave us compost as a tool to better work the earth He gave us.

What causes you to ponder more about God - whether it has no real consequence or is crucial?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cupboard Doors

Psalm 27:14
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take 
courage; yes, wait for the Lord."


One of the projects we've wanted to do on our house is our cupboard doors. We haven’t had any since we moved in four years ago, and we didn’t quite make our goal of getting them in by the time our baby was mobile. We pooled some Christmas presents together and were able to order a pretty and economical design for the lower cabinets that I’m really excited about. My husband slaved away on Friday while I watched our son, and got all of the holes filled and the cupboard facing sanded, primed, and painted. There was just enough time to drill the holes for the hinges in one of the doors and to mount it on. Now I'm excited we got our first cupboard door on! It feels like a huge step, and I am so grateful.

Even if they aren't finished, just having them up will be immensely helpful with our little man. It’s hard to believe the extra energy we burn chasing him around, trying to keep his little hands out of the cupboards. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor as a child, playing with pots and lids while my mom cooked or cleaned, and nurture the hope I might get to do that pretty soon with my little man. (She didn’t have cupboard doors, either, but I was old enough by then to know what I could and couldn’t play with!)

Jehovah-jireh
. The Lord will provide. It may not be in the timing you expect or desire, but God's blessings are never late! I am so thankful (and excited) to be one step closer to a fixed-up home, a child-proof home, and even to the look we would like to have in our home. I feel so blessed the Lord would choose to see these small desires met in His own timing - the best timing there is!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekly Impressions - Our Hope

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."


I lost my closest grandfather a little over a week ago. It was good for him, as he knew the Lord and was suffering. That doesn’t really make it any easier to not miss him, though. My thought was to wait until the funeral service to stop pushing the grief aside (which happens tomorrow). However, I struggled at the beginning of this week with going to work. In fact, I took Monday off. The grief hit me harder and earlier than I had expected. I was a little unsure of what to do, and sought the counsel of a biblical counselor at our church.

She reminded me our hope is in the Lord. Yes it hurts, and we need to take some time to heal, but we look to the Lord to be our Healer. He is the God of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3) I realized I had let the grief take over, and was not living in the joy of the Lord.

I don’t mean I should be happy as I grieve. Happiness is different from joy. Joy is the peace and thankfulness born of faith that God is always in control and knows what He’s doing - no matter what - for your good and His glory.

In this case, I could extend the "good" to knowing He was also taking care of my grandfather. Living in the joy of the Lord is living in the constant knowledge of His presence, His sovereignty, and His love. This made it so much easier to grieve. I am so thankful for the One who is our hope.

How can you live in the joy of the Lord through a trial you may be going through?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Houseplants

Exodus 36:2
"Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the 
work to perform it."


I love gardening - even the weeding. It’s rather therapeutic for me - and not in the “I get to take my anger out on the weeds” kind of way. It’s more the sitting quietly and working with the earth, which often turns my mind to the Lord. His creation has that effect on me. It can help with loneliness, too, as it brings God’s presence to the forefront of my mind.

However, I can’t tend a garden until my backyard gets a watering system, since I don’t have consistent time to go out and water. Believe me, I’ve tried... it gets pretty sick looking. So in the meantime, I have houseplants. They aren’t nearly the same, but they do help. I also enjoy their nice lush green that makes my house a bit more inviting. Even though I sometimes forget to water them, too, trimming the dead leaves can be therapeutic in the same way as gardening. I also chose hardy plants!

I am thankful for houseplants, that God created multiple ways to assuage a desire. It boggles the mind the myriad ways God incorporates different passions or desires into the life of His children. God doesn't need us to perform His works, but I love seeing how different people employ the talents and passions He's given them to accomplish His works just a little differently from one another. I believe this is one of the ways we glorify Him! 

If there is a circumstance blocking you from using your passion in the traditional sense... is there a different way you could employ it? Maybe you can even take it a step further and find a way to incorporate it in your ministry?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Breakfast

Isaiah 55:8
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways 
My ways,' declares the Lord."


Since middle school (the latter 90's), I have avoided breakfast as best I could, because I could only eat small amounts of certain foods a couple hours after waking, or my stomach would burn or feel nauseated - especially if I drank much liquid. I would still eat if there was a family breakfast or some such, but watched what I ate and how much of it, testing the results by the burning about 10 minutes later. Altogether, it was a much more pleasant experience to just skip breakfast and eat later.

During my pregnancy with my son, I found myself much hungrier in the mornings (after the morning sickness stage) and decided I had better eat even if it hurt - for my baby’s sake, if nothing else. Bread was usually the least painful in the correct quantities, so I started having a piece of buttered bread in the mornings. I was glad to find it didn’t hurt. Wanting variety (and quantity) I soon changed it to peanut butter and boysenberry jam on top. I added a granola bar. Then I started eating two of the instant oatmeal packets. Before I knew it, I was eating a full-on breakfast and my stomach wasn’t burning. I was incredibly grateful, but distantly dreaded the eventuality of the issue returning after my little man popped out.

Years later, I am still eating breakfast. I had replaced it with juicing for a time, which was amazing, too, since the liquid didn’t upset my stomach, either. Now, I usually have eggs, some small form of bread, and maybe even bacon or sausage. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to eat breakfast! In the morning!

I thank God for changing my anatomy through my pregnancy! I don’t know why He chose that mode, but it is enough for me to know He did. Whenever I try to do things my way, I'm reminded my intelligence doesn't begin to approach God's, nor do I know how best to care for everyone. Only He knows and sees that. Which is why God is God, and I am not. I choose, today, to trust His good judgement and follow wherever He leads.

Has He given you something in a way you didn't expect? Do you trust Him to follow where He leads - even if it isn't what you think you want?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Many Names of God

Genesis 24:14
"Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.'"


Elohim - Creator
El Elyon - God Most High
El Roy - God Who Sees
El Shaddai - All Sufficient One
Jehovah - I Am That I Am (YHWH)
Jehovah-jireh - The Lord will Provide
Jehovah-rapha - The Lord Who Heals
Jehovah-nissi - Lord my Banner
Jehovah-mekoddishkem - The Lord Who Sanctifies You
Jehovah-shalom - The Lord is Peace
Jehovah-sabaoth - The Lord of Hosts
Jehovah-raah - The Lord my Shepherd
Jehovah-tsidkenu - The Lord our Righteousness
Jehovah-shammah - The Lord is There

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the names of God. It doesn’t even include the ones like Lion of the Tribe of Judah, The God of All Comfort, Ancient of Days, King of Kings, Everlasting Father, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. To look at this list, one would think, “Yeah, God is awesome, and powerful, and heals, and sanctifies.” Yet to simply look at the list is so superficial.

Each of these names is presented in the context of one or more stories in the Bible. They are intended as illustrations of the many ways God loves us and to point our minds toward how incredible and awesome God really is. I would highly encourage you to do a study on the names of God. You’d be amazed at how well you get to know Him, and how He reveals even more of His relevance in your daily life.

I am so thankful He has all of these names to direct us to the many facets of His Person. His love, might, grace, power, and glory - every one has its own story, its own context, and its own meaning, to speak to us in the differing moments in which we falter, stumble, doubt, or have fallen.

Lately, I have been leaning on Jehovah-jireh - The Lord will Provide. It is first mentioned in the story of Abraham, when God asks him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Abraham told his son the Lord would provide the lamb to replace Abraham’s son as the needed sacrifice. Indeed He did - and He did this for us, too. Jesus was God’s only son, whom He sacrificed to save us from our sins. He provided for us the Redeemer.

If He is so dedicated to providing for me that He sacrificed His only son to do so, then how can I fear? He is the Great I Am, Who always was, and is, and is to come. He will always provide for me. I lack the words to describe how awesome and amazing is the God who can do that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Our House

Romans 8:28-29a
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..."


We purchased our house four years ago as a fixer-upper... it has turned out to be a lot more work than we anticipated. Each repair or improvement we have tried has been met with unexpected setbacks. For example, once we tore down what was there (like drywall), we found something else needing to be fixed, or repaired in a different way with different materials. It has been quite a trial... and quite a blessing.

God has reminded me He brings trials into His children's lives to make us more like Him. It is one of the many ways in which He teaches us. It isn’t an easy process - and it can take a fair amount of time - but it does drive the point home once you understand. God taught me contentment through this process of repairing our house. We still aren’t finished, but I am content. I am also thankful we even have a house to call our own.

God provides. At every turn of life, He is right there beside His children. He will provide for you, toward the goal of teaching you to be more like His Son - it’s one of His many names:  Jehovah-jireh “The Lord Who Provides.” When I am in the midst of a trial, the best thing is to look to the Lord and to know He will provide, and to recognize He always has provided.

What past (or even present) trial has shown you His provision?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Shoes


I am glad that God gave us feet that can toughen up to withstand a lot of barefooted walking over varied terrain.  However, I am thankful that God gave us shoes so that we don’t have to do that.  Shoes are so versatile.  We have specialized shoes for whatever you want to do, be it working, hiking, running, sports, or dancing.  I most definitely appreciate all of these - especially since mine require orthotics - but honestly, I think the part that I appreciate most is their appearance.

I’m not the kind of woman who has fifty pairs of shoes in my closet; I think that would just be too overwhelming.  I wouldn’t even have enough outfits to match them to.  That, to me, is the whole reason to have “so many” shoes.  Shoe shopping can be difficult unless you’re just getting one pair of shoes to match one outfit.  I just can’t bring myself to spend the money and space on doing that, with two exceptions:  my wedding dress and my prom dress.  Actually... I used the heck out of my prom shoes (and even got to wear the dress a couple more times).  

I do feel, however, that there are a few staples to a woman’s shoe collection.  In the open-toed dressy category, you have your black, brown, and white shoes; a pair of sandals and a pair of flip-flops; a pair of black boots and maybe another of brown; a pair for all-purpose every-day wear; a pair of tennis shoes; a pair of grungy shoes; and a pair of house shoes.  

Now that’s 11 pairs of shoes.  You can take it from me, men - a woman’s basic shoe count requires double digits.  You may not think you care about how our shoes look, but it really would look pretty tacky if your wife had to wear her all-purpose shoes with a skirt.  Shoes really can make or break an outfit, and it takes some hunting to find a pair that’s versatile enough for more than one outfit.

Isn’t it amazing how much God has given us?  Millions of people out there would be thankful for just one pair of shoes, and here I’m talking about at least 11 pairs.  It is expected in our society - and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.  It’s a reality of different worlds.  I am, however, very thankful that God chose to place me in the “world” that gets to have at least 11 pairs of shoes.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Weekly Impressions - Do's and Don'ts

Colossians 3:9-10
"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him..."


Most people think of God as a God of rules. Don’t do this, don’t do that. He has been showing me “don’t” is only part of the message. It isn’t about what not to do, it’s about what to do. We are not only to put off our old selves, but to put on the new self. (Colossians 3:10, Romans 12:2)

I believe that for every sin, God gives us something to replace it with; something that will fulfill us far more than the sin ever could. For example: the most obvious is pride and arrogance. We are to replace this with humility. That’s the easy answer - but I encourage you to delve into not only what humility means, but what it is, what it looks like, how to do it specifically.

During one of my struggles with selfishness, my biblical counselor pointed me to Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The don’t is clear, but so is the do. However, I wanted to know more about what humility looked like, so I kept on reading. Philippians 2:8b says of Christ, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” I realized part of being humble is being obedient.

Now replacing pride with humility is, as I had said, an easy example. What about anxiety? What about fear? God has shown me answers for these as well through seeking Him in His Word.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Don’t be anxious. Do pray with humility and thankfulness. I am to replace my anxiety with thankfulness, recognizing I am always in the presence of God and He is the One in control. This is a large part of the reason I began writing my thankful things. I wanted a way to hold myself accountable to create the habit of being thankful in all things. Anxiety and fear, though closely related, are a little different. (For an explanation on what I found to replace my fear with, see my previous Impressions - Fear.)

It may also be noted the previous verses say, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). In context, it stands to reason the above tools are the same tools to use in order to have joy. I am so thankful for God’s gift of the Bible, that we can know Him more through it. The more I know Him, the more joy I have. What has He taught you that gives you joy? Do you think about it often?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sunrises

Philippians 1:21
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."


Just as I am thankful for sunsets, I am also thankful for sunrises. I don’t see them as often, as I'm not a morning person (which is why I enjoy sunsets so much). That fact, however, does not decrease their beauty. They make for a very pleasant and peaceful beginning to the day.

As I had mentioned in yesterday’s post, my grandpa is experiencing the most awesome sunrise of his life in passing from this life to begin life in the full presence of his Savior Jesus Christ. What a gorgeous and glorious new beginning that sunrise must be! I am reminded of Paul’s sentiment that “...to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21b) On the one hand, I cannot wait to join with my Savior and the saints who have joined Him before me. On the other hand, I know God has a purpose for me here until He personally calls me home.

I am thankful I can rest in the knowledge I will see that glorious sunrise one day. But not yet, dear one. If you're reading this, God isn't finished with you here on earth. Even if a specific purpose isn't evident, you can rest in knowing He works all things for the good of His children, to make them more like Christ. (Romans 8:28-29) Whether He is molding you, or using you to mold another (or both!), He isn't done, yet! How can this change your perspective as you move on with the day?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sunsets

Matthew 10:27
"What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops."


My favorite time of day is just after sunset, when the lighting is relaxed and the light of day is drawing to a close. It’s a precious half hour when the light seems a little warmer, a little cheerier, and yet without the hurried push to get things done. Preceding this time of day is sunset, when God showcases the light in a medley of vibrant warm tones as His grand finale of the sun.

Sunsets are a magnificent end, with the expectation of a sunrise and new beginning the following day. My grandfather passed away a couple days ago on New Year’s Eve. It seems much like the sunset to me. He truly shown with the light of the Holy Spirit and shared it with others as best he could, like the sun shining down on the earth.

It wasn’t his job to try to make it through if people blocked his light with shades or hid in their houses, or if the Lord saw fit to harden their hearts and sent clouds so they couldn’t see. It was simply his job to shine God’s light. I’m not quite sure what the moment of his glorious sunset was. Perhaps my grandmother knows, but I know God got to see it. I enjoyed the cheery, warm, and relaxing light in his later years as his life began to fade.

I never saw him but he didn’t quote at least one verse to me. He overflowed with a perceived urgency to share what God was sharing with him. What God whispered in his ear, he proclaimed from the rooftops. God spoke many truths into my life through my grandpa - many of which I didn’t fully understand until later. Those clouds cleared when God’s timing was right.

I am thankful for sunsets, for the gorgeous light God shines - on the earth and through His people. Now that my grandpa has had his sunset and the light is gone, I am so glad he is experiencing a sunrise with his Lord and Savior. I look forward to seeing him again when God’s timing is right.

What is God whispering in your ear, or what is He teaching you right now? Is there someone you could share it with?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Seeds

Mark 4:27
"...and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows - how, he himself does not know."


Seeds are such an amazing miracle to watch. The way a tiny white tendril breaks through and stretches out to the sun. Upon reaching the sun, the tendril turns green and then sprouts leaves to better catch the sun’s rays. The more energy it can gather, the larger it can grow. It would be pretty incredible if it took place in a matter of minutes, but I think the process demands a greater respect and appreciation for the simple fact that it takes awhile to accomplish.

I am thankful God made seeds for us to tend and water, and then rely upon Him to make them grow. They are a wonderful example of how God doesn’t need us, but chooses to use us to accomplish His will. His call can be in the small moments of a smile of encouragement, or in the steady discipline of raising a child; the helping hand, or the time spent in silent moral support with a troubled friend. Our planting, tending, and watering could be done by others, but God chose to use us. If I pay attention to the outcome, I can get bogged down in what seems like a lack of results, or even bragging over what "I" did, as though I have any control over the outcome. The outcome is entirely between God and the person(s) you may have labored over. Yet, isn't it a joy and privilege to have been used to spread His love, no matter the outcome?

How is God using you right now, no matter how great or small?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Parties

Leviticus 23:40
"Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days."


God commanded the Israelites to celebrate several feasts. In the past, I've often looked at the Old Testament as a time when God was less merciful. It seems riddled with wars, strife, and the commandments of a holy God. Yet if God is unchanging, then He is no different in the New Testament than the Old. It's true Jesus performed the perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices and the Holy Spirit was unleashed to His followers, but God Himself did not change. He has challenged me to find more of His love as I read the Old Testament, and, though the main part of His love seems to be in setting everything up for Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice, I have also found things like the feasts mentioned in the verse above. God commanded them to rejoice before Him for seven days! This is just one example I find to support the shorter catechism answer for man's main purpose: to glorify and enjoy Him forever!

For New Years, my husband and I had a party at our home with several of our church friends. When I think of the word “party” I think of a big party with tons of people, loud music, loud conversation, and available alcoholic beverages, like you might expect in the photo above. This is strange, because it’s not my idea of a party. I’m not saying it’s bad, just not what I enjoy. I enjoy a smaller group of people - in which it’s not as easy to get lost - with low music in the background to encourage conversation, who gathered to eat and spend time with each other... and probably play board, card, or video games. Games are fun! Alcohol is optional, but not highlighted. A movie can also be a fair addition. This is my idea of a party.

I always find myself content and smiling after one of these parties. We have awesome friends, and love being able to open our home for fun and getting to spend time with them and just enjoy their company. We live a fair way out of town, so I always feel blessed by their willingness to come out.

I am thankful for parties, for the opportunity to connect with friends and to share our home and blessings from God. Thankfully enjoying His gifts is one way we glorify and enjoy Him! What is something you thankfully enjoy from Him?