Friday, January 31, 2014

Cluttered Corners

We are in the beginning stages of a 4 month room transition in our house.  

The boys want their own rooms, and for momma's sanity this really needs to happen before summer break.  That means we have to go through the room they now share and divide up all the stuff.  We also have to clean out Erik's office and my "extra storage" room as this will be JT's new room.  Much of the stuff in the office/extra storage will need to go into the basement or master bedroom which means both of those areas need to be organized and gone through so that all the stuff has someplace to go.  UGH!

So every day I try to go through/clean out some little area, this is WAY to big a project to tackle in one weekend.  Here is what I have discovered about myself…

I am a stuffer.  

I tend to "stuff" all the "stuff" I don't want to deal with into a corner.  There are advantages to this.  The stuff is not out and about laying around the middle of the house for all to see, it doesn't get into people's way, the room generally looks fairly tidy when you just quick glance in, and I haven't had to part with anything that I may need one day and now regret getting rid of.  

The problem… every corner of my house is full of STUFF!  Stuff I don't need and no longer want, stuff I have never quit figured out what to do with but for some reason didn't want to part with, stuff that I might need someday (I know it's been years and I haven't needed it - but I might…someday…), stuff that someone once considered a treasure but now it's just junk, stuff I didn't want to deal with at the time so I just stuffed it into a corner.  

It has made me realize that I also do this internally.  Heaven knows there is plenty of stuff going on inside me that I just don't want to deal with, past sins, unforgiveness, false pride, anger bugs, selfishness that refuses to go away, you name it!  I understand why I do this.  It's all stuff I don't want other people to see, stuff I don't want to get in the way of what I am trying to do and who I want to be, stuff that if people really saw they would realize my life wasn't so neat and tidy, stuff I'm just not ready to get rid of.  It is all stuff I really probably need to deal with, I just don't want to.  So I stuff.  I stuff it into the corner of my mind, the corner of my heart all those little corners inside of me, where if I just glance in I won't notice it.  Can you relate to this at all?

But this is what I am afraid of now that I have made this new discovery.  If Christ is supposed to be the cornerstone, the foundation on which we live (and the Bible says he is in Ephesians 2:19-20), if Christ is the cornerstone, what happens when I can't even see the corner?  When I push so much stuff into the corners of my heart, mind, spirit, that I can't even see our cornerstone, trouble is sure to follow.  

I guess it's time to start cleaning house.  And not my physical house this time.  I want to see my corners, I want to know what's there, clean them out, and see my beautiful cornerstone.

Monday, January 27, 2014

This Is the Stuff

I listen primarily to Christian music.  

Not because I don't like other types of music like rock or country, I enjoy them both.  And not because I think other types of music are evil, you can find almost all types of music in my iTunes library, including rock, country, hip hop, old heavy metal, and honestly probably even a couple songs with a few questionable lyrics (they don't get played very often and I blame my husband on their existence, but they're there) . I certainly don't judge you if you choose to listen to these forms of music.   Honestly, I just  happen to enjoy Christian music. 

I am a firm believer in the "garbage in, garbage out" philosophy.  And no I did not just call your musical preference garbage!  I like that "garbage" myself.  But I like Christian music more, so I listen to it more!  I like the way Christian music makes me feel, I like the thoughts it puts in my head, and the words that come out of my mouth (and my kids mouth) when we sing along.  Christian music has come along way in the last couple decades (or I have, not sure which).   And I find myself choosing to listen to it.

There is a song by Jamie Grace called "This is the Stuff" that I absolutely LOVE!

I lost my keys
In the great unknown
and call me please 
'cause I can't find my phone

This is the stuff
that drives me crazy
this is the stuff
that's getting to me lately
in the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed.

This describes my weekend to a tee!

My whole family was in town this weekend.  It was a celebration of my dad being healthy after a triple bypass surgery a few years ago and a heart attack last year.  Eight out of the 12 of us were going to do a 5k together.  We woke up Saturday morning to a toilet leaking in the kids bathroom, an hour later the toilet in the office bedroom started leaking.  An hour after that damage started to show up on the first floor ceiling and I noticed one of the handles on a kitchen drawer had somehow broke.  The kids couldn't access the internet, our wi-fi was somehow down (with 6 kids ranging in age from 6-14 this was a HUGE DEAL!)  After watching a basketball game in the afternoon, the kids couldn't get the X-box to work, and when it was time to watch our FAVORITE basketball team that evening the cable box wouldn't work!!!!  

Frustration is too light of a word to describe what my husband and I were feeling at this point!  

And then…and then… this morning… my phone wouldn't work!!!!  You can mess with a girl's wi-fi, I can survive without cable or an X-box.  I still had 3 working toilets.  But DON'T mess with my phone!!!!

I had reached my limit!  I forgot about every single blessing I had been given not only this past weekend but in my life in general and I was ticked!  This tends to happen to me.  REAL tragedy, true trouble, the kind that is way past a mere inconvenience and stops your world in your tracks.  That I can handle.  That stuff, though horrible, inevitably draws me closer to God, forces me to count my blessings, shows me what is TRULY important in this world.  But all this little stuff.  This is my undoing.  

It is the little stuff that too often makes me rant and rave, not at God, but at life.  At how "I" have been inconvenienced, how "I" deserve better than this, and how hard "my" life is. 

Really?  REALLY?

Give me a break!  I am BLESSED!!! So BLESSED!  And I know this!  So why do I let this stuff get to me?????

So this morning I prayed.  I prayed for peace, I prayed for clarity, I prayed for perspective, and yes I prayed for my phone!!!

Guess what?

My phone is working perfectly!  Yes I still have 2 broken toilets, a stained ceiling, and a broken drawer handle.  But I am smiling.  I have peace and I have joy.  NOT because my phone is working but because my God is good, and I am blessed!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

There Are Days...

There are days when I couldn't be more excited about where life has taken me and what I am doing.

And there are days when this walk I am on right now is the hardest thing I have EVER DONE!  Days when it is lonely, and frustrating, and OVERWHELMING!

There are days when I feel like I am in this sweet little spot that God created just for me, doing what He has gifted me to do.  Days when I feel like I am home.

And then there are days when I am quite convinced God must have confused me with someone else.  When I feel like I am far out of my league, way out of my comfort zone and somewhere I have no business being.  

There are days I just can't wait to see what He is going to do next.

And there are days I just want to go back.  Back to the life I had before he put this dream in my heart.  

A few days ago I drove by a Special Education Early Childhood Center, one very similar to the one I used to work at (it feels like that must have been a lifetime ago).  And for the first time since I started this journey I had this crazy, insane, desire to go back.  All I could think about was how easy it would be to go back to something that was familiar, something I knew I could do, something that had no learning curve, no sense of failure.  Something I knew I could do, and honestly - something I could do on my own.  Something that I wouldn't have to rely on Him for every minute of every day, in every word I read and every word I write.  Something I could just do.  

It's hard sometimes, doing what God has asked you to do.  Trusting in Him to carry you through because you know He is asking you to do something you simply can't do on your own.  (Do you think He does that on purpose?).  Too often, at least in my experience, the status quo is so much easier than what ever it is He is asking us to do.  And it is so very, very tempting to stay there content with the status quo.  It is safer…easier…more familiar.  

But it's not where we called to be.  God didn't leave the Israelites in Egypt.  He promised them more, a better life.  And even though it was a long hard walk through that desert, God delivered them.  He led the Israelites to the land He had always planned for them, right where He had always wanted them to be.  

God will do that for you too if you let him.  He will take you by the hand and lead you right where He wants you, into the sweet spot He designed just for you.  I'm not promising you it will be easy.  There will be days you want to give up, days you want to go back.  There were days the Israelites LONGED to go back to slavery, they BEGGED to go back.  There are days I do too.  But it's not every day.  And deep in my heart I know I would never be content there again, knowing that God had more planned for me.  

So I will keep going.  And I hope you do to.  Keep listening, keep letting Him lead you.  Because there will be days when you just can't believe the life He has planned for you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


There is this word that I have heard over and over again in my Christian walk.  They talk about it A LOT at school.

Tension.  Holding something in balance between two extremes (that is my own definition - not Webster's).

There is a tension in the way I parent my children, as Erik and I try to balance being too strict with being far too lenient.

There is a tension in the way I balance my life right now, giving as much as I possibly can to my husband and children while still answering the call God has placed on my heart.  A call which takes me out of the home and pulls time away from my family.

There is another tension that I have struggled with a lot the last few years.  The tension of faith verses works.  We are saved by faith and faith alone, but the Bible is also very clear that our actions, our obedience, our works are also very important.  So how do we balance our faith with our works.  Which is more important?  Are they both important or does only one of them truly matter?

I posted some of my thoughts and recent discoveries about this tension at Blogs by Christian Women.  I would love for you to stop by and check it out (you are welcome to click on over even if you aren't a woman!)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Unanswered Prayers

There is a verse in the book of James that has completely grabbed my attention recently (James 1:6 if you're wondering).  I have been thinking about this verse for probably two weeks now.  I've been wanting to write about it, but not exactly sure what I wanted to say or how to go about it and desperately wanting what I said to be accurate.  So I have held off.

The verse is about how to ask God for things, how to make a request to God.  I love this topic and I couldn't wait to write about prayer.  I wanted to talk about how the Bible says to go about it and how God answers it and how to pray within his will… my mind has been full of all sorts of snippets and ideas and verses that have come to mind.  So today I spent the better part of the afternoon writing about prayer.  

Ironically, the year 2014 (or at least the 16 days thus far) has been a more prayerful time for me than any other period of my life, outside of a few specific trials and tragedies.  So I was a little surprised when my afternoon ended with me being stuck.  Absolutely, positively stuck.  

I have this wonderful post all set to go about how God longs to answer your prayers and when prayed within his will and with full conviction and no doubt he will answers your prayers, really it's quite lovely and inspiring (you might not realize it but there was some sarcasm typed in there).  But I just couldn't hit "publish".  I couldn't post it because I kept hearing this voice inside me asking, "But what about when he doesn't?  What about those times God doesn't answer your prayer that is prayed from the bottom of your heart with the deepest of conviction?"

I tried to ignore this voice.  I did.  It so did not go with the flow of my post. So my solution when two things don't work well together is to ignore one of them.  Perhaps not the best strategy, but don't judge!  But today that didn't work.  I couldn't ignore this voice.  So the blog I prepared is sitting in my queue, just waiting.  And I am here typing, thinking that maybe I am supposed to try to explain why sometimes God doesn't answer your prayers.   Only, the problem is…  I don't know.  

I don't know why God didn't save the baby you desperately wanted to carry to term.  

I don't know why your loved one died so young, or how you are supposed to find joy again without him/her.

I don't know why there are always more bills than there is money no matter how hard you work.

I don't know why your marriage continues to struggle and the redemption that is promised in the Bible seems like a fictional story.

I don't know why your child is sick.

I don't know!!!

I don't know.

i don't know

I DO know that HE knows.  And I know that one day His plan will be fully revealed, and that plan will be perfect.  

I know that he works all things…ALL THINGS…for good (Romans 8:28), even when we can't possible imagine how.  

I know that He loves you, don't doubt that love, not even when your prayers go unanswered.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Terrible, Temperamental, Talkative Tongue

There are a few things about me that some of you may know, and some of you may be surprised to find out…

  • I have a sharp wit.  This can be seen as clever and funny OR as rude and disrespectful.
  • I love to talk.  I have a lot to share and am perfectly willing to do so, but this also means I'm not always a very good listener.
  • I have a terrible temper.  I have come a long way in learning to control this, but it still gets away from me, most often with my kids.  Ironically you can see the negative effects of my temper most often in the way my children handle their temper.  Apparently I am a poor role model!
So verses like James 1:19 are painful for me, "My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,".

Um, that doesn't describe me AT ALL!

James then goes on in verse 26 to say, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."!  



Ouch.  That hurts.

Sometimes truth hurts.  And this is one of those times.  You see, just because the truth doesn't describe me, that doesn't mean it's not true!  I don't get to change the truth.  Unfortunately, I am the one who needs to change, not the words of God.  

There are countless reasons to keep a tight reign on your tongue, to closely monitor the words that you say, the book of Proverbs alone lists over a dozen of them, here are just a few...
  • "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." 12:18
  • "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger." 15:1
  • "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,…"15:4
  • "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."16:24
James knows what he was talking about.  In fact in chapter 3 he spends 12 verses talking about the importance of taming the tongue.  There is no doubt the tongue can do great damage when it is not controlled.  I have done great damage with my tongue.  And I have had to go back to people I have spoken to in anger or sometimes even unintentionally been disrespectful to and had to apologize.  It is not an easy thing to do.  

I don't want to deceive myself.  I don't want my religion to be worthless. I want God to smile down on the words that I use and say.  I want my friends to consider me a good listener.  I want my children not to fear my anger and temper tantrums.  So I will diligently try to tame my terrible, temperamental, talkative, tongue.

How about you?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Open Doors

It's January.  It's cold.  There are not a lot of open doors around.

People tend to keep their doors firmly closed in the months of December, January and February.  I can't say I blame them.  So imagine my surprise when on December 25th a door opened wide open for me.  

It was Christmas morning and I had a delightful surprise waiting in my email inbox!  Blogs by Christian Woman, a blog I had guest posted for in the fall, asked if I would join their team!  You can still find me right here at Seminary Chic but I will also be writing for BCW once a week or so.  In fact, my first blog posts today!  Click here to check it out...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Choice to Persevere

It's January 9 today, anyone already broken their New Year's Resolution?  

Anyone been tempted to break their resolution?

The thing about resolutions is they require, perseverance.  There is that word again.  That word that makes me cringe.  Oh, how I dislike that word!

The thing is I can make the right choice. I can honor my resolution.  I can eat healthy, exercise, read my bible, love on my kids, love on my husband, organize something, and say "no" to sin.  I can do ALL of those things…once (okay, probably not at the same time, but I can do them!).  The problems is doing it over and over again.  Persevering at it.  That is what I struggle with.  But the Bible tells us over and over again to persevere.  Ugh!

This perseverance thing would be a whole lot easier if there just wasn't so much temptation out there.  I have been thinking a lot about temptation the last couple of days.   Ever since I read about it in James 1:13-16.  James points out that the temptation that we face, the temptation that causes us to stumble, that weakens us and sometimes even breaks us, does not come from God.  Don't get mad at God, it's not His fault you ate that cupcake, slept in instead of going to the gym, yelled at your kids, or entered into that affair.  It's really not.  He did not bring that temptation into your life.  

James likens the word temptation to other words like desire and entice.  When we allow our desires to entice us we become tempted.  And when tempted we have two choices 
1.  to sin or                
 2.  to persevere.  
That's it, those are your only two choices.  You have allowed your desire, whatever it might be, to entice you, to tempt you and now you will either sin or you will persevere.  Sin leads to brokenness and eventually to death, perseverance leads to strength, maturity, completeness and eventually to a crown of life.

Man, put like that, the choice doesn't seem quite so hard.  

The year is still early my friends, if there is something in your life you are wanting to change, I encourage you to do it.  Do it now, don't wait.  And when you are tempted, I hope you will persevere!

If you want to read about these truths yourself check out James 1:2-15.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Gospel Message (Romans 5:8)

I would like to think I would lay down my life for my children.  

I have never had to prove this claim so it is really hard to be certain, but I would like to think I would.  I'd also like to think I would do this for my husband.  I'm pretty sure he would do it for me.  

I would like to think I am the kind of person who just might even do this for a dear friend.  Again, I haven't ever had to test this theory so I am not 100% sure I could do it, but I would like to think maybe I could.

I am however, pretty positive I am not the type of person who would lay down my life for my enemy (not that I have a whole lot of enemies, but you know what I mean).   I probably wouldn't sacrifice a whole lot, let alone my life, for a person who beat me, teased me, made stuff up about me, or called me a liar.  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't lay down my life for that person.  I just don't have that kind of love in me.  I wish I did, I probably should, but I don't.

Today my journal had Romans 5:8 preprinted on it.  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV).  I have read this verse quite possibly a hundred times in my life and it never hit me until today.  While we were still sinners…while we were actively sinning against Christ…while we were beating him, teasing him, making things up about him and calling him a liar...he died for us.  It wasn't because we were already in this love relationship with him.  He didn't die for me because I was his child, his bride or even a dear dear friend. He died to make me those things.  See the difference?

At the time when Christ died, I was nothing more than a sinner.  Ugly, broken, and lost.   But he died for me anyway.  Not because I loved him, but because I didn't.

Now THAT is love.

God's love is not based on our relationship with him.  It is not a reflection of what we have done in the past, the mistakes we have made,  or the person we once were.  He honestly doesn't care about those mistakes you made before you  knew Him.  Trust me, I have made PLENTY of mistakes, I still make mistakes every day.  God doesn't care about the person you were, he only cares about the person you are going to be in Him. 

Let me say that again, God doesn't care about the person you used to be, he only cares about the person you are going to be in Him, through the power of His Holy Spirit.

It is not because you are such an amazing person that Christ died for you, you very well might be an amazing person, but that isn't why he died.  It wasn't because you and he were in this amazing love relationship where you finished each other's sentences, knew just the right gift to buy for each other and were connected on a soul deep level.  It wasn't about how YOU were demonstrating your love for HIM.  It was a demonstration of HIS love for you, imperfect, sinful, you.  While you were sinning, while I was sinning, Christ died to save us, you and me.  

Don't miss that.  

Let that sink in. 

It will never be about what you have done or can do to deserve his love and affection.  Yes, now you are his child, his bride and his dear, dear friend, and he would lay down his life for you.  Of that there is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT!!! 

 How do I know that? 

 Because my friend he already has!

If you are not yet a child of God, if you are still stuck in the sinning stage of life and you just don't know how to stop, my friend this message is for you.  God LOVES you.  He loves YOU!!! And while you are sinning, lost and lonely and broken, you  need to know that Christ has died for you, to save you, from those very sins.  HE is your savior, HE is your salvation.  He wants you to be his child, his bride and his dear friend.  He wants to talk to you, to teach you, and to wrap you in his love.  Because sweet friend he DOES LOVE YOU!  He knows who you are, what you have done and he loves you ANYWAY!!!!  

Believe that.

Trust in that.  

That, my friends is the gospel message!

How do you grab on to that?  Where do you go from here?  Talk to him.  Close your eyes, bow your head and talk to him.  Tell him about your mistakes (he already knows anyway) and ask for forgiveness.  Open your Bible, if you don't have one, google one.  And start reading.  Start in the gospels.  Read what Jesus said, read what he did for you.  Read it, believe it, live it.  Your life will change.

If you have questions, let me know, I would love to walk with you on this journey. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Peace in the New Year

It's 2014.  A new year has come.  And with the New Year you inevitably get New Year's Resolutions.

Yes I am one of those ridiculous people who make them every year.  I just can't seem to help myself.  A few of them I have even managed to keep, but most of them I haven't.  

I am a goal setter by nature.  I actually enjoy pushing myself…growing... getting stronger (physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually) and doing things I never thought I would be able to (like go to seminary).  So no surprise resolutions have always appealed to me.  

Through the years I have learned a few things about setting goals.  I only set goals I know are attainable.  Yes I will push myself, but I don't set any goal so lofty that I give up before I even get started.  Each goal I set I know, deep down in my heart, is attainable.  It might take sacrifice, a change in routine or giving up on the status quo, but I know I can achieve each goal.

I have also learned to give myself a lot of grace.  Perhaps too much grace some might argue but I do what works for me.  If I have a set back, I don't give up, I reevaluate, refocus, and start again.  

The final thing I have noted about the goals I set is this, in order to be successful at any given goal, I must look closely at the heart of the matter.  What has motivated me to set that goal and what do I really hope to accomplish?  Looking past my goal to the motivation behind it, allows me to address the true issue.  For me, often, this true issue has to do with a inner restlessness inside me, a lack of peace.  I don't like my body; I am financially undisciplined; I don't want my husband to die at age 59 like his father did.  These motivating factors are all based on a lack of peace.  

Losing 10 pounds, hitting the gym, eating better, financial discipline or a more organized life are all excellent goals.  But if what you really need is a peace that passes understanding down deep in your soul,  you won't find it on the scale, in the mirror, the food on your plate or in your wallet.  Trust me, this is a lesson I have learned the hard way.  True peace, the peace that passes understanding can only come through Jesus the Christ.  

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to be anxious about anything... not our weight, our diet, our finances, our lack of organization, our schedules..not ANYTHING, but to present all of these requests (worries, hindrances, concerns, whatever you want to call them) to God, in prayer, with a thankful heart for all He has already done in our lives.  And the peace of God, which transcends ALL understanding - a kind of peace we can't even begin to understand or explain, a peace that surpasses the details of your life and enters your very soul - this peace will guard your heart and your mind.

In John 16:33 Jesus himself tells us that in Him we will have peace.  In this world we will have trouble, we can not escape it.  The life of a Christian is not a life free of trouble, things will go wrong, trouble will come our way, hardship will happen.  We know this, we have experienced this.  Life in this world is not always easy.  But take heart, for Christ has overcome this world.  And in Him you may have peace.  Peace that passes understanding and resides deep in your soul.

That is what I hope for you this coming year.  Peace.  The kind of peace that can only be found in Christ our Lord.  

May you find Peace in the New Year.