Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts of Spring Blog Partaay!

Hey Party-ers,

This is my first blog party, and I look forward to getting to know you.  After you read, click on the Thoughts of Spring button to the right (cute and green) to join in on the fun!

My name is Kristen, and I have been married to the love of my life for almost eight years now.  We have two children, and I hope many more to come.  We love the Lord, and we enjoy learning and loving His creation.  I just love how creative God is!

What is your comfort food/drink?
     I love ice cream, but because we try to eat very healthy I learned to make it.  When I make it I can make it much healthier and still really yummy.  However when there is a great deal on a brand that isn't as terrible ingredient-wise, I often buy it.

Be brave – tell us something very random and weird about yourself.    
     Okay...Sometimes I picture a moment of my life - while it is going on - from an outsider-looking-in perspective like I am watching it.  Also other times there is music involved - you know, like a musical.  Is that weird enough for ya?

Do you have a strong desire to do something you’ve never done? What is it?
     Yes!  I have ideas for three books, and I am planning on getting started in the writing process with them.  I have never done this before, but I am excited.

Movies: Action, Drama, Romantic Comedy, Documentary, Comedy? What are your favorite genres?
     I love movies that are not on this list the most - Mockumentaries.  These are documentaries that are not acutally true and made to be funny.  One of my favorites is "Waiting for Guffman."  I would love to make a mockumentary one day.

Books: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Romance, Biographies, True Stories, Self-Help, Devotional/Study? What are your favorite types of reading material?
     I most often read non-fiction and devotional type books.  I have SO many books on my list to read, but most of them fall into these catagories.  However I am getting more into American and World History, as well.

Music: Funk, Rock, Country, Jazz, Classical, Film Score, Blues, Classic Rock, Crooner, Alternative, Heavy Metal, Techno? What are your favorite types?
     I really, really love music!  I think music is such a cool and mysterious joy of life.  Music takes us places and moves us in ways we wouldn't be without it.  My favorite is music about Jesus, but I love just about any genre.  If it has strong percussion, I like it even more.  I am careful though to only listen to music that builds me up and doesn't go against my values.

If you inherited a million dollars, what is the first thing you would do with your money?
     Seriously...I would first make a budget.  That sounds a little dorky, but that is what I would do.  Then I would give away at least 10% of it right away.  Then I would buy a house and finish paying off our debt (almost finished!!).  I'm not sure where I would start after that, but most likely Hawaii for a vacation.

Name one weakness of yours (confession is good for the soul).
     I just actually posted about this recently.  One weakness that I am working on, with the Lord's help, is laziness.  I sometimes get lazy when it comes to a specific task I have to do or phone call I have to make or in making time to pray.  See "Beating Laziness into Submission."

Well, that is a little about me.  Thanks for stopping by, and  look forward to stopping by and visiting you, as well!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Intentionality in Daily Life

This week I was again struck with this truth: We have to be intentional.  General speaking the ideas I have, relationships with those in my life, good rearing of children, my health and the health of my husband and children, my business, the laundry, etc do not get taken care of on their own.  Hey, sometimes I wish they would, but the truth is it takes being intentional.

I am working with my older child on establishing chores for her to do.  From there we will build on this foundation and give her more or different ones as she gets older and her younger sister is old enough to begin with her chores.  She is very resistent.  It has taken lots of talks and discipline for her to realize that this is part of being a family.  We all have roles that are important in maintaining the harmony in our home, but beyond that these roles also teach us how to relate to others and fulfill our God-given purposes throughout life.  Can learning to make her bed, clean up her toys, and put some silverware away really be that important? 

Yes.  You see, her common protest is, "I just don't want to."  I usually reply with reminding her in some way that there are going to be many times she will not want to do something that she is required to do.  There are a lot of times I have to do things I do not want to do.  This is a part of life, and we have to learn to press through these times.  How much sweeter the things we do love to do are when we have been responsible and taken care of even the things we don't enjoy but must do. 

But this is a choice.  We have to choose to be intentional.  Perhaps you have made a New Year's resolution to "get healthier" or "lose weight" or "start exercising."  How are you doing with that?  What makes you continue to do it?  What makes you fall off the wagon in that goal?  We have to choose to be intentional.  Why do so many aim to take care of themselves only to feel guilty and knocked down when they don't follow through?  Often it is because we don't have a plan and/or we make the choice to not follow through with that plan.

Have you heard the phrase, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail?"  I have come to grips with that fact that many cliches are actually true.  I know it can be hard to admit that sometimes, but seriously think about it.  When I have had a plan of action, followed through with it, and then accomoplished my goal it is so encouraging, so invigorating, so thrilling!  However there have been many other times that I wanted to do something, but just kind of threw myself out there without a real plan.  Failure was usually the outcome in those instances.  Or even if I didn't fail, the process of pressing through was much more difficult.  There was no order or everything was a mess or it was as if I were trying to push a car up a hill in the snow with no gloves and no snow shoes (There were many cliches I could have put here, but I decided instead to make up my own - lame, I know).

Now, I must mention that sometimes we do make plans and we still fail.  Yes, yes.  This is also a part of life, isn't it.  I don't like those times, but I know there is always a reason and a lesson in the face of these failures.  As a recovering perfectionist, the idea of failure would paralyze me.  I would much rather just not be intentional as opposed to taking action and failing.  The Lord has helped me with this tremendously, but I do have to make this choice daily to continue to walk in His truth and not my own because sometimes I am really wrong.  Sometimes I am actually believing a lie and not remembering His truth. 

Furthermore, there have been times when I did make a plan, was intentional about it, but it turned out that my plans were different than the plans that the Lord had for me. 

"There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.  The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD"  (Proverbs 21:30-31).

At first glance, these scriptures can cause one to be ticked off by this.  Doesn't that seem a litte controlling of the LORD?  However, this is actually such a wonderful truth because I can trust the LORD to thwart any plan that does not line up with His.  Wow!  I am so thankful for this because I can drum up some spectacular plans.  As I have matured over the years, though, I have realized that I really do not want any plan to succeed that is against the LORD.  I really do want what He has for me because He always knows what is best and wants that best for me.  I have to chose to line myself up with Him to receive it.  He is so gracious and compassionate to guide me in this process.  Sometimes I am very resistent - like a toddler.

I have an easier time, though it still takes thought and a plan, to be intentional with the things I love, desire, and enjoy.  It is so easy, though, to let distraction in to steal away my focus.  I hate when that happens.  Perhaps you know what I mean?

How much more focus and determination does it take then to be intentional with those things I do not like, don't want to do, and really even loathe at times?  What will happen if I really take hold of those things and take action?  The little things like my floors getting mopped more often and the shelves being dusted will not be a big deal.  But even more importantly, my children will have an even better environment in which they can learn and flourish, people in my life who may annoy me (or really do annoy me) will still feel God's love through me, my husband will feel my appreciation of his hard work, and I will experience the fulfillment that comes with taking initiative, being intentional, and letting the Lord be my strength and my guide. 

None of us are going to be perfect at this.  I fight this battle daily.  Even to write this post right now has taken the choice to be intentional.  After this I am going to have to be intentional about making a plan for dinner and for much before that when my children are done napping and my husband comes home from work.  I want to thrive in these areas of everyday life and not let past failures or the fear of future failures distract or paralyze me.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14).

This takes humility and it takes intentionality!

In the near future, I will post about intentionality in love, thankfulness, spiritual warfare, diligence, and anything else that comes up as we go.  I hope you'll join me, and I would love to hear from you.  In what areas is intentionality especially challenging for you?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beating Laziness into Submission

Sheesh.  I am kind of embarassed to write this one, and it may even turn out to be a "to be continued" post because this is a work-in-progress in my own life.

Over the last couple of years I have realized something about myself that I do not like at all.  I do not like it, yet I still struggle with it from time to time.  I see so clearly now what it is and why it must be changed, by God's grace.  You see, I have a tendancy to become lazy.  I am not talking about "resting" or taking a break.  I am talking about being lazy.  There is certainly a time to rest.  There is certainly a time to just sit back and relax.  We really need that as a matter of fact.  However, this is not what I am talking about. 

Lazy - 1. Resistent to work or exertion; disposed to idelness. 2. Slow-moving; sluggish; a lazy river.  3. Conducive to idleness or indolence (habitual laziness;sloth).

This is not the way I would like to be described, and perhaps most people wouldn't describe me this way.  Besides I do accomplish quite a bit in a day's work, and I seem to have a lot going on to keep me busy.  How can I be lazy?  Well, like everything else, it is a heart issue.

Proverbs 13:4 states, "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied."

I take turns with myself being the sluggard and the diligent.  As much as I know that life is a series of ups and downs, I do not feel that I am living to my full potential in Christ.  There are going to be times when I slip up and become a sluggard, but for right now it is all too often.  Furthermore, this can negatively impact each aspect of my life: my spiritual health, my emotional well-being, my parenting, my submission to my husband, my business, my hobbies, etc.  All of these catagories really come down to this:

When I am walking in laziness, I am not fully submitting to the Lord.

How do I know this is true?  It's a slow creep that takes place.  First I get lazy with my time in prayer and Bible study.  Then I get lazy in putting to death the sinful nature in order to not let any sin reign or influence me.  Then I let the sin I failed to get rid of take me down one path that leads to another and so on.  For me, this might not lead to what we would call a huge sin or life changing bad decision, but it always lead to disobedience.  Disobedience to the LORD is never good.  It always leads to trouble because the Lord, in His graciousness, longs for me to come back to Him.  He will only let me go so far before He draws me back to Himself because I have been bought with the blood of Jesus.  I am His.  If I am not careful and I let this go for too long in my own heart, the drawing back process will be nothing short of painful.  Why not strive to avoid even getting there in the first place?  But how?

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one get the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Strict training.  Not running aimlessly or beating the air.  Beating my body into submission.  Now, this is not physically beating my body or "beating myself up" emotionally that Paul is promoting here.  This is about deciding to take action.  It's about deciding to submit to the Lord and walk according to His ways.

I see and hear so many complaining and grumbling about their situation or circumstances that have come about in their lives.  Many of these complaints are valid and unfortunate, but what are you going to do about it?  Why are so many of us complainers who, at the end of the day, have done nothing to change the situation?  This is laziness, and though nothing is new under the sun (according to Ecclesiastes), do you see how much of this is going around?  Many in our country and many in the church in our country specifically have grown quite comfortable with lazy.  Of course I am generalizing.  There are many people to whom I look up with admiration and motivation to pick myself up and get diligent instead of lazy.  Nevertheless, there is much growth to be had in this area.

In the study, "Lord I Want to Know You," by Kay Arthur she states:

"We want salvation, but not warfare."

I'm talking about the warfare that comes as the battle between the flesh and the spirit rages on (see Galatians 5:16,17).  We relish, and rightly so, in the salvation that comes from the LORD, but we often would rather not get involved in the spiritual warfare that continues afterwards.  It's difficult sometimes.  It's difficult a lot of times, but who said we wouldn't have difficulty?  In fact, quite the opposite was said by Jesus:

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

So how did I get to the topic of spiritual warfare when I started out talking about my own laziness at times? 

This is a battle.  It was a battle that Joshua led the Israelites in down in the valley of Rephidim in Exodus 17 as Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold up the rod of the LORD up on the hill above.  When Moses held up the rod, the Israelites were winning, but when he got tired and lowered it, they were losing. 

I must fight the battle in the valley, and Jesus Himself, the mediator of the New Covenant, is on top of that hill with His arms raised in intercession for me 24/7 (see Hebrews 7:25).  And He does not grow tired or weary (see Isaiah 40:28-31).  I have victory because of Him.  It is His battle because I am His child.  Hallelujah!

As I strive to fight the good fight (see 2 Timothy 4:7), I realize that apart from Him, I can do nothing (see John 15:5).  I need His help.

I have noticed that when I chose to seek the Lord and be diligent, more diligence follows.  When I am careful to protect my prayer time and Bible study time, I find that I am more likely to exercise, take care of myself, be a better wife and mother, and take action in my business.  God rewards my diligence. 

So please, if you know me personally, keep me accountable and in prayer regarding this.  I want to be diligent for God's glory.  And I want to encourage others to do the same.  Obedience and submission to the Lord is such a sweet place to reside, and it takes an intentional choice to stay there.

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23).

Here's to being a doer and not just a talker.  To God be the glory!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Ring with Great Significance

Almost eight years ago I married my wonderful husband, and I am very thankful for him.  He is a great husband and father and a sweet friend to me, too.  When he proposed to me, he gave me a ring that I would have picked out myself.  It was literally exactly what I would have asked for, and he never asked me.  He always says that the Lord brought it right to him because he almost bought another one.  The truth is, I would've gladly accepted anything he gave me to wear on my ring finger because I was, and still am, smitten with him.

Less than a year and a half after we married I went to Thailand on a mission trip with a Christian organization.  We arrived there two months after the huge and devastating tsunami that hit there and all over Southeast Asia December 2004.  After an incredible time in the mainland of Thailand rejoicing with so many vibrant and beautiful Thai women who loved the Lord, we traveled to the lower part of the country that was directly hit by the tsunami.  There we were encouraging the Thai people who were working tirelessly to minister and aid the people who were affected.

It was a drastic contrast to be in the lower part of the country and meet the people we were meeting there compared to where we had just come from in the mainland.  I found myself thinking of the verse in Romans in the Bible that reads, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15).  My question for God was, "How do I mourn with these people?"  I understood what it was to rejoice with the women in the mainland, though they experienced hard times in their lives, as well.  But I was completely at a loss as to how to mourn with these people.  I met a woman who was about my age, married, and pregnant.  Well she was.  Her husband died in the tsunami, and she miscarried as a result of almost losing her own life in the waters.  As a result, she now had a much harder challenge as a widow in a village she had married into.  "How do I mourn with her, Lord?"  How could I?

A few hours after asking that question, I went reluctantly for a swim with another lady.  We were swimming in an inlet of the Indian Ocean.  The people there told us that around 300 people died in those very waters.  It was sobering.  We waded in the water, and I was playing with my wedding ring because there was sunblock on it.  Suddenly, it slipped off of my finger and into the water! 

I could go on and on with details, but what happened over the next few minutes was one of the most intense moments with my Savior that I have ever experienced.  It wasn't because of a valuable piece of precious metal given to me by my loving husband.  It was because of the question I had asked earlier that day.  So many people had lost their loved ones in those very waters, and now I had lost the most important material possession there.  My loss no where near compared to theirs, but I began to see their loss a little more personally.  We looked for the ring, we prayed for the people who still had not found their loved ones, we sat and prayed for them and looked around imagining that day when the waters came in, and we felt an outpouring of God's love for the people there.  We felt His love for us, too.  What a real moment of clarity.  We got up to look for the ring again along the shore, just in case.  Then I heard the Lord say, "It's gone.  Let it go."

Later that evening after sharing all of this with the Thai people with whom we were serving, I read in my Bible through First Peter chapters 1 and 2.  I had read chapters 3,4, and 5 that morning, and I hadn't understood why I intentionally skipped the first two chapters.  That night I understood why. 

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6,7, emphasis mine). 

I had found a little way to mourn with that woman.  The Lord was increasing my faith and my love for people and for Him as a result.

I had to relay this story to my poor husband during a 3 minute phone call on a calling card from Thailand to the USA.  I prayed that the Lord would help him with this considering he didn't have such a profound experience like I did.  He had chosen not to renew the insurance for it just a month earlier.  It was really gone.

Time passed after returning home and sporting my $22 silver band another woman on the trip bought for me at the LAX airport on the way home was good enough for me.  I had thought about getting another diamond at some point, but I had learned about the common oppression that can come with the diamond industry in other countries (specifically Sierra Leone, Africa) and decided against it.  I instead paired the band with another band given to my husband for me by a sweet lady at the church where he worked when we met.

Several years have passed since then, and recently I was thumbing through a catalog someone gave me.  There was a sale on a very cool wedding ring set!  For just $25 I could get a lovely, vintage-looking ring and band.  They are sterling silver with a cubic zirconia stone.  My husband said he would get it for me for my birthday, which is coming up.  After getting it sized, it is now on my finger!  Can you believe I have a new ring for under $60!  I wish we would have looked for something like this back before we got married, but then again, what a rich experience it was to have lost something so valuable on that beach in those waters at that time.

I just wanted to share this story.  I have been thinking about it so much lately because of the new ring.  God is so amazingly personal.  His heart is to show us His heart.  What a love He has for me, for you, for the people He created!  Unfathomable.  Sometimes I find myself holding on to what I think is valuable.  I hold on to what I think is mine, when the truth is that it has just been entrusted to me for a time.  That time could be a long time, or it could be a short time.  My responsibility is being faithful with what has been entrusted to me and using that time well.  He always has a purpose.

Thailand and the people there will always have a special place in my heart.  Thank You, LORD.

I have included these pictures to show you the rings.  :)  The first picture is courtesy of Paul Careccia Photography and was taken on my wedding day.  The second is the one I had after Thailand, and the third is my new one.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mightily Breasted: El Shaddai

Did the title make you curious?  I did that on purpose, but I have a really good point to make.

Today I was reminded of that fact that breastmilk can be used as a remedy in many situations.  My husband and one of our children both have "pink eye" right now.  We always go the natural route and were using a home remedy that works well when a friend reminded me that breastmilk has been used by many people in many cultures to aid the eye in healing from an infection like this.  What could be better than a natural and free home remedy?  So with a dropper I dropped drops of breastmilk in their eyes several times throughout the day and evening, and their eyes have definitely improved! 

I again was astonished at how amazing God made breastmilk.  What a strange way to provide life giving nutrients to an infant.  What a miraculous process that takes place in the women's body with only really a little attention on the women's part in most cases.  This milk is all sufficient in nourishing the baby and can be used topically, in the eyes, and in so many other ways to provide life giving and healing properties.  Incredible!  I was then reminded of my study on the names of God...

Another one of the names of God that I have been studying is El Shaddai.  I have heard this one perhaps most often because there is a song that repeats this name and then others.  "El Shaddai, El Shaddai, El Elyona, Adonai..."  I didn't really know what it meant though until this week, and it is pretty cool.

El, of course, means might or power, and Shaddai is possibly rooted from the Hebrew word Shad, which means "the breast."  At first I kind of laughed at this literal translation - mighty breast - but as I continued to study, the meaning took far more significance to me.  While Shad may be translated literally to mean the breast, what its meaning points to is the way a mother is the only one who can provide her baby with the lifeblood (milk) that comes from holding her baby closely and providing for him.  This provision is a pouring forth.  This milk is all sufficient.

You don't have to have ever nursed a baby to understand the significance of a mother's milk to that baby.  What's even more significant is when we know Him as Adonai (Lord), we can also know Him as our El Shaddai - All Sufficient One.  From Him comes everything that we need.  From Him comes life.  From Him comes sustenance.

In Genesis 17 we see God as El Shaddai when revealing Himself and then initiating a covenant with Abram, who later is called Abraham by the Lord.  How much more vibrant God's covenant to Abraham becomes when we see that He is called El Shaddai here.  He would be all sufficient for Abraham, and He kept that promise.

When Jesus poured Himself out on the cross, becoming the only sacrifice needed to pay the price for our sins, we see our El Shaddai again.  The pouring forth of His blood became all sufficient for us.  We remember this when partaking in Communion.  El Shaddai provided the only way needed for salvation and true life.

One of my lessons from all of this is that often all I need has already been provided for me.  I went to the store to get colloidal silver, when all I had to do was use some breastmilk.  When I am looking for guidance, peace, answers, comfort, acceptance, hope...I don't have to run out and get a book about how to find it or come up with a creative way to make it happen or expect these needs to be met by any other (though He does use others in my life to provide these at times).  I just have to run into the loving arms of my El Shaddai who loves me unconditionally and holds me closely to protect me, to provide for me, and to be my All Sufficient and Almighty God.  What a life-giving and miraculous gift.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9a