Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy 6 months, sweetheart!

May 13 marked our 6 month anniversary. Time is flying by! It doesn't feel like it's been half a year (almost 7 months) since we said "I do!" It's been just like our courtship, engagement, wedding day and honeymoon- A dream come true. I love you Patrick!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Perfect Mess

Reading Sarah Mae's post for today, "When failure is heavy like a downpour," reminded me of a book I read by Lisa Harper last year. Once you've taken a moment to read Sarah's post, come back and see how Lisa's message relates.

Unfortunately, often our faith doesn’t penetrate to our unfavorable feelings about ourselves.” – Marva Dawn

On those days when french fries and napkins litter the floor of your car, when you think bad words about other drivers, when your smile hides an anxious heart- in those moments when you fall short of all you’d hoped to be- what does God see when he looks at you? In your less-than-lovely moments, God sees a precious daughter (or son) in need of His perfect love.

You don’t have to worry about being good enough for God. He adores and transforms imperfect people. He is a loving Father who remains your greatest champion, even when you don’t feel anywhere near close to holy. What happens when we stop trying to hide our inadequacies and doubts from God and others? What happens when we trust God with our anger, frustrations, flaws and regrets? As you accept God’s loving invitation to exchange your mess for His best, you’ll find the imperfect pieces of your life shaped into a glorious pattern of divine grace. You’ll find joy in Him!

The psalms wonderfully solve the problem of a praise-deficient culture by providing the necessary words to praise God.” – Philip Yancey

The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God that made David dance.” – C. S. Lewis

What does Psalm 1 reveal about us avoiding potholes in the path of life? It shows  that God’s love frees us to steer clear of the path of destruction and walk with Him in joyful obedience.

What does Psalm 62 say about wriggling out of the trap of wrong expectations? It teaches us that God’s love frees us from meaningless rules and religious propriety constructed by people. We can live authentically and abundantly by relying on Him instead of ourselves.

How does Psalm 139 describe the way God sees beauty behind our blemishes? It teaches us that God’s love frees us from performing so we can relax and rejoice with the assurance that He knows us completely and adores us just as we are.

A ‘yes’ to life means an honest recognition of our own evil, but it is also a ‘yes’ to God, who in the midst of our evil sustains us and draws us into his righteousness.” – Richard Foster

What does Psalm 51 reveal about deep cleaning in our dirty hearts? It shows us that God’s love frees us from the muck and mire of guilt so we can walk in the sweet fragrance of forgiveness.

What does Psalm 42 say about dealing with our ugly emotions? It says that God’s love frees us to grieve honestly while never losing sight of the supernatural hope we have in Him.

What does Psalm 8 say about God partnering with imperfect people like us? It says us that God’s love frees us from self-centeredness so we can take on worthwhile responsibilities that can be accomplished only through His strength and wisdom.

What does Psalm 34 reveal about being grateful for God’s ability to unsnarl the tangles in our lives? It shows us that God’s love frees us from our fears so that we can live with thankfulness, contentment and peace- even amid the roughest storms.

How does Psalm 23 illustrate that our Shepherd compels stubborn sheep to rest? It teaches us that God’s love frees us from frenzied lives and compels us to rest- even those of us who aren’t naturally inclined to recline.

How does Psalm 119 shed light on this supernatural love letter called the Bible?
It shows that God’s love frees us from stumbling around trying to navigate life on our own, giving us practical, lifesaving guidance and a clearer perspective on our circumstances through his Word.

What does Psalm 149 and 150 suggest about how rhythm-challenged people can master the smooth moves of praise? It says that God’s love frees us from worrying about our lack of rhythm and polish so we can dance with abandon in praise of His goodness.

Notice that all of these Psalms point us to God’s love and reveal its freeing power in our lives. God’s love liberates us from our strife! Our striving to be perfect for him and attaining approval from others. It frees us from the burdens we place on ourselves. Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary; you who labor and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

The Lord’s chief desire is to reveal himself to you and, in order to do that, he gives you abundant grace.” –Madame Jeanne Guyon

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you as blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

No one is more solidly in our corner than God himself. He lifts us up, dusts us off, and cheers us on in the ‘messy’ race of life.” – Max Lucado

A Perfect Mess will cause you to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally we are assured that we aren’t the only ones who need encouragement as we stare in disbelief at the chaos of our lives. Thank God for his reassuring presence (and cleansing grace).” – Priscilla Shirer

A Perfect Mess deftly applies the ancient truths found in Psalms to our very frazzled, contemporary lives.” – Liz Curtis Higgs

Lisa reminds us that although we may be messy, our heavenly Father has big arms and doesn’t mind getting dirty.” – Chonda Pierce

                                 *All notes credited to Lisa Harper, author of "A Perfect Mess"

Friday, May 20, 2011

*Update* to A Woman After God's Own Heart

Thanks to a reader comment, I was reminded that I forgot to mention an important note about this book. That’s the audience! If the only thing holding you back from reading this book is that having a husband and children don’t apply to you, then please don’t let that stop you.

As the author says herself, “On many occasions I have had single women write me or introduce themselves at a conference who commented that upon reading the book, they were struck by how little of it actually applied to wives and moms only. They were prepared to feel left out and overlooked. They were delighted to discover that of the 6 priorities addressed, only 2 apply directly to wives and moms. Refreshingly, the remainder of the book applied and spoke to all Christian women. There was plenty of meat for them to chew on and thoughts to ponder!

If you’re single, even the chapters dealing with marriage and parenting can be powerful and helpful tools to prepare you for your future and/or counsel other ladies. You could have countless opportunities to encourage wives and mothers dealing with their problems by simply showing them what the Bible says about their situations and encouraging them to lean on God for help. You may even want to bless them with their own copy of the book. This book is for women in all seasons of life- wives of many years, newlywed wives, single gals, working wives, stay-at-home wives and moms, college-aged girls, grandmothers, etc.- because it draws all of them closer to God.”

I’ll also add that it’s never too early or a bad idea to start thinking about your future husband and children. I started considering my future husband in my dating life and in all my decisions when I was in high school but especially in college. I started reading Christian marriage books for married couples to gain His perspective on marriage and learn helpful advice and tools to making a marriage work by centering it on God’s will. I learned so many things between the age of 17 and when I met my husband at 22 (such as, a marriage can't work if either one of us is relying on the other to make us happy and feel whole. Only God is perfect and can fully satisfy us. He alone can meet all of our needs for love and worth. He alone will never let us down. We need God's presence, help and grace to love and forgive each other. It's inevitable that we'll face problems and it won't turn out well with only 2 in the marriage- God has to be included and at the center of both of our lives. I learned that the primary need in a husband is respect and the primary need in a wife is love/affection. I learned strategies to avoiding areas of conflict or letting sin creep into your marriage. I learned how important praying for each other is, how to communicate, etc..)

It can be overwhelming to wait until you’re in the next season of life before you start preparing for it. Not that we can ever be completely prepared for life by reading books, but it certainly helps to let God use others’ experiences to give us insight. And certainly studying God’s word on marriage (or anything in life for that matter) teaches us ahead of time what to expect and how to prepare our hearts for it. Now that I am married, I’m starting to read and take in information on being a mother even though we’re not planning to have a child for a few years. Throughout the years of living with my future husband in mind, I always relied upon Proverbs 31:12 which says that a godly woman honors her husband all the days of her life and never brings him harm. ALL the days?! That’s a high calling because it means including the days before you meet him choosing to honor him (and his feelings). I took this very seriously and pursued becoming a better woman who lived for God and would be ready to love and honor my future husband when I met him. Now, I’m continuing to take my role as a wife seriously as I also start to think about my future children and preparing my heart and life for them (for ex, reading and studying God’s word so I can teach it to them, trying to eat well and exercise to teach them to live a healthy lifestyle, being involved at church and enjoying it so that they will grow up to as well).

Anyway, it is my hope that you draw closer to God, realizing his unfailing love and endless mercy is available to you, and desiring to be a woman who reflects his love, mercy and character. That’s why I believe this book applies to you!

I met my mother for lunch today and she was able to sum up this book with a better, slightly different, statement than I did so I thought I’d share it with you:

“As a woman, your family is your ministry. With today’s current divorce rate and all the problems our children have, if you’re able to raise your children in love and with the knowledge of God, if you’re able to not only stay with your husband but have a thriving marriage with him, if you’re able to keep your home clean and at peace as a healthy environment for all of them, then you’ve ministered! Not only have you ministered to them - who will go out into the world and minister to others as strong, loving representatives of God- but just showing all the people you encounter what this picture of a family that loves the Lord and each other looks like is a powerful ministry.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Woman After God's Own Heart

This week, I’m wrapping up the book “A Woman After God’s Own Heart.” I can’t say strongly enough how much I enjoy and recommend this book! My discipler/mentor in college recommended it to me 4 years ago and I’m sad to say it took me until now to read it. I wish I had read it sooner! So if you haven’t, please add it to your reading list. I’d let women who live nearby me borrow it, but I’ve marked, underlined and highlighted throughout the whole thing! It’d be difficult to read with all my notes and markings, but also I intend to return to this book any time I need a refresher, a reminder or encouragement.

I’d like to give a synopsis of Elizabeth George’s book because, for one, if anyone is curious about what it says and trying to determine if it’s worth buying or not, then I want to convince you. Two, I like to recognize any Christian author, but especially female ones, who have written a good book. Simple as that. I want to get their name out there and circulate their message so that others will benefit from their writing like I have. And three, as I’ve been reading this book for the past 4 – 5 months, it’s been changing my perspective on life and redefining my desires for the rest of my life!

So, to sum the entire book into one phrase:

Christ came to serve, not to be served (Matthew ). As Christians, we’re called to live a life of service to others like Jesus did, instead of being concerned about how others can serve us.
What better way to carry this out than beginning at our home with the most important people in our lives- with our husband and children? No other relationship on earth is more special nor has higher priority and lasting affects than that of our marriage relationship and parental relationship.

As I’ve been reading and studying this book with other newlywed girls from church, this idea has, at least for me, become the most life-changing. Obviously, the more important message in Elizabeth’s book focuses on a heart that’s devoted to God, that abides in His Word, that’s committed to prayer, and that obeys him. These make up the first few chapters of the book.

“A Heart Devoted to God”- The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 teaches us that Mary was a woman after God’s own heart. Take a moment to read it then consider the difference between how Mary and Martha handled Jesus’ visit to their home. “Mary made the choice that indicated her heart’s devotion: She knew it was important to cease her busyness, stop all activity and set aside secondary things in order to focus wholly on the Lord. Unlike her sister, who was so busy doing things for the Lord that she failed to spend time with Him, Mary put worship and her relationship with God on the top of her to-do list. Mary chose the one thing that was needed in life, and it would not be taken away from her like everything else can.” We are to be in the world, but not of it. Our whole heart, mind, soul and body is to be devoted to the Lord above all else.

“A Heart Abiding in God’s Word”- “Just like a plant with roots hidden underground, you and I- out of public view alone with God- are to draw from Him all that we need to live the abundant life that He promised to us (John 10:10). The impact of our ministry to people will be in direct proportion to the time we spend with God.” We need to know, study and memorize God’s Word in order to know how to live, for strength and encouragement when living is hard, to know what pleases and doesn’t please him, for strength to obey Him, to be able to help and encourage others, to be able to share the gospel with others, to know how to love, forgive, and teach. It’s our guidebook for life! We can’t make it without it or be the woman God intended us to be without learning from it. A person who trusts in the Lord and abides in His Word is like Jeremiah 17:8, Psalm 1:3 and Phil 4:7.

“A Heart Committed to Prayer”- The blessings of prayer include a deeper relationship with God, greater purity/ our sanctification, confidence in making our decisions, improved relationships, contentment in all circumstances, and greater confidence/faith in God. It is also a ministry. Interceding on the behalf of others is not only an important task as a Christian, but a highly effectual way to minister. If you feel useless, ineffective or helpless in someone else’s situation (or one of your own), then you can always pray. Sadly, we tend to think that because prayer is simple it’s not that effective. Oh, but it is! And it’s a privilege to be a part of praying for someone and seeing God work in their lives as a result of your prayer.

“A Heart That Obeys”- The kind of heart that God delights in is one that is compliant, cooperative and responsive to him. A heart that is willing to obey- that is tender and teachable. He can’t change our hearts, sanctify us and mold us into being more like Christ if we’re inflexible and defiant. We will be blessed and rewarded for our obedience. In all that you do, consult God and follow His will for your life. Let Him lead you on His path so that you know you’re doing the right thing. Check out Isaiah 48:17-18.

But the rest of the book expands on the topic of pursuing God’s priorities for us women, which includes our husbands, children, home, and ministry.

Priority #1 our husband- If you carefully read and study Genesis 2, you see that man wasn’t created for woman. Woman was created for man. Man was alone and God saw that it wasn’t good for him. He decided that Adam needed a helper- a companion, a supporter, a lover, a friend, an aid- that was fit for him. Out of all the other animals and creatures on the earth, He couldn’t find one that was suitable for the job. So out of man God created woman who was designed specifically and uniquely to be the helper Adam needed. As a married woman, the attitude and heart of service starts at home with our family and more specifically, with our husband. I am on an assignment from God to help my husband. That’s what I was created for. That’s where I find my primary purpose as a woman and sense of meaning in our marriage. Every day, my primary purpose or role is to help Patrick, to share his responsibilities, to respond to his nature, to support him, to wholeheartedly cooperate with him in God’s plan for our lives, and to submit to his leadership (as she says, subbing under his mission). It’s the servant-spirit that makes us reflect the character of Christ. To be selfless and serving, we must defer to others, honor them, and turn from selfishness. Not only is our husband affected positively by this, but as other couples, singles and children witness it, they are positively impacted too. It’s important for our own children to see a strong, loving, Christ-centered marriage. We are to admonish the next generation and young women to love their husbands, also (Titus 2:4).

Priority #2 our children- A woman after God’s own heart is not only a heart that serves, but a heart that values being a mother. There is no greater ministry, position or power than that of being a mother.
“The most common fallacy among women is that simply having children makes one a mother- which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician.” By Sydney Harris
Being a mother is not only a blessing and privilege, but it is an awesome responsibility from God. Mothers have the primary role of raising, nurturing, teaching, training and discipling their children. We’re called to teach them who God is, share His Word and wisdom with them, tell them about His ways and all the good things He has done in the past for others and ourselves. We’re called to walk out what it means to be a Christian in front of them- showing love, patience, forgiveness, strength and faith. We’re called to teach our children not only how to live and survive in this world, but how to live for God and thrive in this life. We don’t simply have the responsibility of providing physical needs for them, but also affection and stability. As women, we’re designed to be nurturers. This is a characteristic that reflects God. He made men and women in His image. A father can’t and won’t do the nurturing that we can. Be careful about giving away time to others or other things when you have not given time at home. Show your husband and children preferential treatment.

Priority #3 our home- The wise woman builds her house (Proverbs 14:1). We want to have a heart that makes a house a home. Why is the home so important? It’s where the people whom we love most and who are most important to us (including ourselves) reside. It can be a place of disorder, chaos, fear, anger, negativity and dread. Or a place of calm, order, refuge, fun, and happiness. We want our home to be the place that we, our husband and children look forward to getting to at the end of the day. A place they miss and associate with renewal or peace. Building a house doesn’t only refer to the structure and upkeep of a home, but also to the family members in it. “Building a house” means knitting together the family and the day-to-day routine of creating a happy and comfortable place for them to live. Who is responsible for the quality of life in this place? The woman (Proverbs 31:27, 10 and Titus 2:4-5). She sets the mood and maintains the atmosphere in the home. If she is wise, she diligently and purposefully works on it and doesn’t merely hope it will happen by itself. God can give us everything we need to create a healthy home. A woman after God’s own heart knows that she’s on an assignment to build her home, watch over it and take care of it.. and it’s a lifelong endeavor to be a homemaker. Every day we are called to appreciate and manage the home and family that God has given us- what He has provided through our husband’s efforts and our own. What a blessing to Him and our family when we approach our home and taking care of it with a servant’s heart!

                        If we take care of our homes effectively, then we’ll have time to also participate in church ministry and volunteering our time and efforts outside of the home. But be careful not to rush out the door to go help out at the church when your home is a wreck, or go visit friends when your children need time with you first. “God uses the management of our home as a training ground for our usefulness in the church. He sees how we maintain our personal relationship with Him, how effectively we manage our home, and how devotedly we love our husband and children to indicate how well we could manage a ministry. He uses the primary area of ministering at home to prepare us for training in other areas outside of the home. Live as though you’re accountable for the condition that your home is in and the condition of each person’s heart who lives in it. Because you are. You’re accountable to God for how you treat everyone, including your spouse and kids.

“In the dictionary, the word ‘hospitality’ falls someplace between hospital and hostel. One, a place of healing, and the other, a place of refuge. That’s really all anyone wants when they come to your home. Hospitality offers healing and refuge to those who enter your home. They want to feel whole, safe, and welcomed.” The Bible tells us to “practice” hospitality meaning we don’t have to get it right but we have to keep trying at it.

Don’t be discouraged by the times that you fail to live up to God’s standards or carry out your role as a wife, mother, or minister to others. Simply trying is what’s important. Trying over and over again to love God and love others is why we’re here. It’s what life is all about. Since we weren’t immediately taken up to Heaven to be with God after accepting Christ as our Savior and confessing our belief in Him, we know that we’re left here for a reason: To glorify Him in all that we do so that His name would be made known among all people. This mission begins at home with the people God has blessed us with and entrusted into our care.

Priority #4 our ministry- Throughout her book, Elizabeth touches on the importance of attending church regularly (for our sake and for our children’s sake) and being involved in church. It’s good for us in order to learn the Bible, to give worship, praise and thanks to God collectively, to fellowship and serve one another through our words, prayer and deeds. I’ll add that it’s also good for us to have the opportunity to test and walk out what we’ve been learning. We learn from God’s Word how to live, treat one another and deal with life’s problems. Attending church and being part of a body of believers gives us opportunities to show if what we’ve been learning about God and becoming more like Christ is having an affect on us and actually changing us. This is the hard part.

But besides the importance of attending and being involved at church, we are called to share the gospel. Have you noticed with every story in the Bible about Jesus healing someone or someone coming to know and trust in Him as the Son of God, he always tells them, “Now go and tell others what I have done for you” or “Now go and tell others about what has happened here.” Basically, if you’ve come to know who God is and accepted Christ as your Savior because of the good news, then you’re called to share that knowledge and good news with others. If you’ve been healed and changed by God then you’re called to give Him the glory and make his name known to others. Tell your story, make disciples, teach the next generation, spread the gospel! We’re all qualified and called to minister. We don’t have to be church pastor to do this. We’ve all been given gifts, resources and passions by the Spirit to do good works and carry out God’s will in our life- to help others and point them to Him. This is the other primary reason that we’re here on earth! As women in the church, we’re called to be givers and encouragers (1 Corinthians 15:58, Luke 6:30-38, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 12:25, Colossians 4:6, Isaiah 50:4). By simply being a woman after God’s own heart, you are living out a powerful ministry to other women and people who see you! I say simply, although it’s obviously not simple. It’s a life-long mission and transformation by the Lord himself.  

Whew! Deep breath… That is, in a nutshell, the premise of this good book! I’ve got two more chapters left before our ladies’ small group wraps it up this weekend. It comes with a companion study guide and study workbook if you’d like to get one or both of those to do as a group or on your own. They have questions to help you go deeper in understanding and applying these principles to your life.

Needless to say, I have numerous things I’d like to change in my life and apply from now on as a result of this book showing me what it means to be a woman who is after God’s heart!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Great is His faithfulness

Great is Your faithfulness
Your mercies never end
With each new day they come again.

Your endless love is strong, sure as the coming dawn
Your faithfulness will be my song.
As You have been forever You will be

Great is your faithfulness, always Oh Lord, to me
Morning by morning new mercy still I see
And though my heart may fail, You will my portion be
Great is Your faithfulness to me

Great is my sinfulness
No good I have to give
But by Your grace, now I can live.
You are my righteousness, the pardon for my sin
Your presence here, my King and friend

Your promise stands forever
We will declare together
Your name alone is great and greatly to be praised.
Your promise stands forever
We will declare together
Your name alone is great and greatly to be praised.

Great is Your faithfulness always, Oh Lord, to me
Morning by morning new mercy still I see
And though my heart may fail, You will my portion be
Great is Your faithfulness
Great is Your faithfulness to me

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tornado disaster relief here in Alabama

**Update** An amazing story of survival and people helping each other Tuscaloosa Tornado testimony of University of AL student
Tuscaloosa tornado death toll reaches 41 as damages could total $2B in AL
Over 1,000 prom dresses donated to local high schools for this weekend Prom Dresses for Tornado Victims

Whether you’re in the state of Alabama or live across the country, if you’d like to help in the tornado disaster relief efforts by volunteering your time or making a donation, here are several opportunities:

Brook Hills Church disaster relief click on Give to donate or Go to volunteer (Boutwell Auditorium is one of the primary emergency shelters for survivors without homes right now that needs volunteers)

"Rejoice with those who are happy; Weep with those who are mourning." Romans 12:15

Isaiah 58:7, Hebrews 13:2, Isaiah 58:10, Luke 12:33

"We mustn’t overlook the importance and benefit of prayer on behalf of individuals, families, and communities during circumstances like these. We ask that in your personal life, as well as in your family, your small group, or your church, that you pray intentionally, fervently, and continually according to the following needs…
  • Pray that God will strengthen and give wisdom to emergency workers who are still working to find missing people.
  • Pray for individuals who have lost family and friends through this storm. Pray that God will sustain them with His presence and strengthen them with His power.
  • Pray for local churches in the affected areas. Pray that God will enable pastors and church leaders as they conduct funerals and minister to hurting families. Pray that God will grant His people grace to know how best to love and serve their communities.
  • Pray that God will give wisdom to leaders of various organizations who are coordinating disaster relief across affected areas.
  • Pray that God will shower these communities with His sovereign mercy and loving provision. Especially in light of this past Easter weekend, pray that people would know the God who is present in our pain and sovereign over our suffering."