Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blog Hop Week Six

This is the final blog hop for the "Let. It. Go." online Bible study.  I have to say that I am not leaving this bible study disappointed that it is over.  I'm not leaving the study at all.  I'm going to continue living this study in my life because it has empowered me to do so.  The words I've read and the things I've learned about myself have been a blessing, one I do not intend to waste. 

Lean on Him:
"I will say to the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!" Psalm 91:2 AMP

This verse has such powerful meaning, especially when we carry out its words in our daily lives, not just in times of struggle.  I cannot remember a time when I didn't believe in Christ.  I was blessed with wonderful Christian parents who not only raised me in the church, but also ensured that it was a priority in my life as well as theirs.  Though I experienced a few backslides as a young adult, I always knew where my heart rested.  However, even with God always present in my life, I have always and continue to struggle with being able to completely lean on the Lord.  Instead, many times, I try to "fix" things and control things in my own time at my own pace.  This book and online Bible study has really opened my eyes to what I am not doing enough and what I need to be doing always, which is leaning on the Lord in every one of life's situations.  The Lord is my protector and my relief from fear, sadness, anger, discontentment, complacency, all the bad stuff.  He is ready, willing, and waiting to take the wheel.  I just need to once and for all move on over to the passenger's seat and enjoy the ride down the road God has mapped out for me because really, in all honesty, all other paths are simply dead ends!

Stunning or Lopsidded
He is the potter, we are the clay.  Well I admit that I am a pot that is about as lopsidded as you will ever get.  But this makes me happy because I know that as long as I continue to consider myself lopsidded, imperfect, and unworthy, I can keep searching, praying, and learning how God wants to make me the most stunning piece of art.  I will still get bumped and cracked along the way, I'm sure, and sometimes I may even break completely.  But God, in His grace and love, will always put me back together.  This book as a whole has taught me many lessons on how important it is to Let. It. Go.  I can already feel God making that change in my life.  The changes are coming at a super slow snail pace, but hey.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and I won't be either.  God has His work cut out for Him, but the important part for me to understand is that it is His work to do. 

Finished...or Am I?
As I stated above, this book in its entirety has taught me truck loads of lessons.  I am confident that God and only God lead me to read this awesome book and participate in this Bible study.  Because I followed His lead instead of my own, I am growing not only as a Christian, but a relinquished Christian!  Before and really during this Bible study, I was really having a personal struggle with control in my life.  I constantly stressed about all the things left undone at the end of the day on my neverending to-do list.  As a mother, wife, and nurse, I have made a life out of doing things for others, which I absolutely love!  I have always believed that one of God's great purposes for me is to help others.  However, He didn't say to help others while neglecting myself.  I was struggling in my life because I wasn't taking care of myself physically or spiritually.  I continued to rob myself of sleep, which for me, snowballs into making an entire pile of poor choices over the course of a day...leading to a week...leading to a month...leading to unhappiness.  God has helped me realize that giving myself the short end of the stick is helping no one, especially me.  Making myself a priority is not selfish.  It is necessary, and I know I am not the only woman out there struggling with this.  I will continue to have days when I still struggle, and will fight so hard against that horrible to do list.  But with God as my refuge and strength, I will continue to realize that to-do list creates a huge barrier between myself and God, and only feeds my struggle with control.  My heart knows that God is a greater guide for my daily life than any to-do list, and it is only He who needs to direct my path. 
God bless all who helped with this Bible study.  It has truly changed my life, and I will pass this gift to the many someones I know and love so that they too will know how to Let. It. Go.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Me, Myself, and God

Another assignment from last week was to write a sentence about myself and God using the words below, while not using the reflection verse. 

God is my refuge, my shelter, my safe haven from the continuous storms of life.

When I am in the face of fear, God is my impenetrable, unshakable fortress in which I hide, and seek comfort and protection.

The sooner I stop leaning on myself and start leaning on God, the sooner He can get on with my life.

God is an eternal shield of strength and a tower of protection on which I can always rely.  I am not completely living my life for God until I completely STOP relying on myself and ALWAYS rely on God.

I should never place my complete trust and faith in the unsteady hands of man, but should seek rest in the everlasting hands of the Father.

We were also encouraged to search for Scriptures that confirm the statements below:

God is my refuge and fortress:
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." -Psalm 18:2 NIV

"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."
                                                                                            -Proverbs 14:26

You can lean on the Lord:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

You can rely on the Lord:
"Will you rely on him for his great strength?  Will you leave your heavy work to him?"
                                                                                            -Job 39:11
"Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant?  Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." Isaiah 50:10

You can trust the Lord:
"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."- Psalm 9:10

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
                                                                                                             -Psalm 20:7

"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." -Psalm 118:8

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." -Isaiah 12:2

"Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal." -Isaiah 26:4

There are more verses in the Bible referring to these statements than the ones I have listed, but the above verses are the ones that really spoke to me.  These verses just confirm the strength, truth, and certainty that is God. 

Living the Relinquished Life

My online Bible study has completed online, but my responses and blog hops are not!  I am a little behind in actually posting these...something I am going to be better at with my next online Bible study that will be starting April 7th!   So super excited! 
What I am including in this post are the assignment questions from last Wednesday, regarding "Living the Relinquished Life".  I've actually been journaling these things while I've been out of town, but wanted to share them!

1. What does it mean to live a relinquished life?
Before I give me response, here are a few quotes from the book that really spoke to me and really thankfully squashed my toes.

"No longer should our cravings be control and command.  We should, instead, pine for position-the position God wants us squarely in."

"We must alter our speech, erase the harsh words hurled in haste, the cutting comments spoken seemingly in jest (but really meant to wound).  Our words should be loving, direct if they must be, truthful, and without malice.  Remember, our words only spill out what's already inside."

"When we relinquish control, let go and let God, we find our faith and the cadence of life that notices the small things and the beauty in all."

Wow.  I'm sure I've said that before in reflection of readings from this book, but there is no other word.  Wow.  As a mother, wife, nurse, and really just as a woman, I do crave control.  I crave control all over the place, and for what reason?  Does it bring my true joy to feel like I have to be in control all the time?  Absolutely not.  Even though I think it will make things better and go safer and smoother if I control things, does it all really turn out perfectly?  Never.  There is one reason that I crave control and one reason only, and it breaks my heart to even say (type) it.  I don't completely trust God.  I read the verses over and over again, I hear the sermons, I read the devotions.  I have no excuse.  I know exactly what it is that I need to be doing as a child of God.  I need to let goand give Him His job back because let's face it.  I could be the most organized and have-it-all-together person in the world, but I still will never be even remotely close to topping God.  The goodness I can offer is nothing compared to the greatness He has waiting for me if I will just back off.  Shut up.  Let go.  So what is a relinquished life?  Something that I don't have yet but desperately need and will continue striving for everyday.  It is a life that I wish for everyone I love, and even those I've never even met.  It is a life of complete faith and complete peace that can only be given when my life is only in God's grasp, not my own.

2. How can our reflection verse help me live the relinquished life?

"I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I
[confidently] trust."-Psalm 91:2

I need to continue reminding myself daily of the words of this verse and pray in thanks for its meaning.  God is my protector, my shelter.  He knows my every need.  He is with me wherever I go.  He will never leave nor forsake me.  He keeps me safe.  Always.  He only has His best waiting for me.  All I have to do is let go and stop trying to play God in my own life--give God His job back as the leader of my life. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let. It. Go. Blog Hop: Week 5

Well, as always, it has been another week of eye opening reading and reflection.  I loved it!  This Bible study has been such a fantastic addition to my daily routine and has really helped me get myself toward where I want to be spiritually, even though I don't ever want my spirit to stop growing!

Sound of Silence
"Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation." -Psalm 62:1

I have to be honest:  Spending quiet time with God is something, a priority, that I need to really learn how to do.  Until this Bible study, I thought that my quiet time with God was my prayer time, which I'm always striving to get better at.  I need quiet time to be able to have genuine prayer time with God so I won't be bothered by the daily distractions that surround me.  But I've been taught this week that it is just as important to have quiet time when I am not praying to God for things, but just resting in His presence.  Just like with prayer time, for me, this would have to be a time when the house is quiet, the phone isn't ringing, the tv isn't blaring, and when there is just a calm stillness over my home.  The best time for me to do this would be at night, as I am drifting off to sleep.  I go to sleep usually after everyone else, so the only thing keeping me company when I head off to bed is the furnace!  This would be such a wonderful time for me to lay my head on my pillow, say my bed time prayer, and then ask God to speak to me while I stay silent and relaxed.  This is my personal challenge to myself.  It is a challenge that will take much practice, I am sure.  But it is definitely one I am excited to start...tonight!!!

Soul Control
Well this was a chapter that opened my eyes and squashed my toes!  No stepping about it!  And you know what?  I love it because I need it.  Karen discussed five different controlling methods, and I will share (while looking at the floor in shame) which one truly describes me the most.  But first, I want to talk about something else that Karen discussed in this chapter that I realized I am so guilty of and that I really need to work on.  Before going into the methods of control, Karen discusses our inability to hold our tongue.  Beyond that, she addresses in certain social circiles and situations, she does hold her tongue quite well and I am the same.  During these situations or in the presence of certain individuals, I remain quiet and don't really convey someone who is opinionated and out-spoken, always "minding my p's and q's" as my mother taught me so many times as a child.  However, when I am in the presence of those with whom I am most comfortable, my friends and family, I am quite the opposite.  I am pushy, opinionated, and critical,  I and am ashamed to say that my family generally receives most of this. 
Karen states in this chapter: "I've often wondered why I can hold my tongue and temper my actions with friends, strangers, church folk, and the gals down at the ballpark, but I rifle off my 'You shoulda, coulda, oughta' opinions like a staccato string of hot ammo at those who share my home address.  I think I know.  They have to love me.  They are my family.  We're stuck with each other.  Others in my life can edge me out if I'm not amiable.  So around them, I behave." 
Wow.  That is the only word I could think of after reading the above words from this awesome woman I am really relating to and admiring.  Those words describe me so well, and while it is great to have people in your life that you feel confident will love you no matter what, I was hit with shame and sadness.  I started thinking about some of the things I've said the people I love and the ways I've treated them, and realized that sometimes I'm not very loving at all to the people I love the most.  Sometimes, I am down right rude to the people who love me no matter what...especially my parents.  Though I know I have true love from my husband and daughter, my parents have always been two individuals whose love I have completely taken for granted...obviously as a child, this happens.  But at times, it continues to happen as an adult.  My father is one of the most gentle and kind people I've ever known, and he may in fact hold the #1 spot on that list.  But he has also had to bear the brunt of my inconsiderate behavior throughout the 30 years of my life.  And why?  Does he know how to push my buttons?  Oh yes.  Maybe better than anyone.  But are any of his actions or words to me tainted with unkindness or hurtfullness?  Never.  Only love is at the root of what he says and does, not just to me, but to anyone he knows.  He is a true disciple of Christ, and deserves much better than he gets from his only daughter.  This Christmas, I stopped harping on my father long enough to genuinely enjoy his company.  It was wonderful.  I joined him to do his Christmas shopping for my mom, we worked together on wooden shelves we are constructing for my husband, it was a wonderful time.  And since then, I am finding the desire to be sarcastic or disrespectful isn't there anymore.  When my mother tells my dad to do something or criticising something he did for her because he didn't do it her way, I find myself gently coming to his defense and reminding her to be polite and thankful of him.  I'm thankful that God, my devine Father, opened my heart and shut my mouth to help me appreciate the man who raised me. 
Now to address the actual blog questions, I believe at times I am guilty of outright action and subtly (or not so subtle) mood swings.  Though I can't promise these traits will ever completely disappear, I can promise that with God's help, I will continue to practice patience, kindness, and soul control with the people I love and cherish.

This chapter has been such a blessing to read, and actually very comforting because I feel like “Finally! Someone else is so over that perfect “Jones” family!” Obviously, I harbor no negative feelings toward any Jones family, but Karen is so right in that when we compare ourselves to the “greatness” of others, at least as great as these individuals portray themselves to be or their children or their cooking or the eternal tidiness of their homes and lives, we are just setting ourselves up for a tear down. I personally don’t spend much time at all interacting on social media because I have enough time keeping up with my own life let alone the lives of 50,000 others. Nor am I really interested in the fact that Susie just posted that she went to the Quick Stop for a Coke and has now typed a rant on how rude the cashier was.
I compare my life to the lives of others a lot more than I am proud of, and sometimes, it is almost like a habit. If I’m in the grocery store, and my child is in the middle of throwing an award winning tantrum yet the child not 15 feet away is sitting her cart cool, calm, and collected–maybe casting a fearful glance or two in our direction–I immediately tell myself, “Geeze. Look at how wonderful that kid is behaving, and look at mine! Those parents obviously have better disciplining techniques than I do, and probably never have this problem with their kids.” Not exactly self motivating words. It is an instant tear down to my self confidence as a mother, and not a loving way to be thinking of my child either. There are like a million parenting books out there on a million different subjects that can be helpful, but can also make you feel like a horrible parent when you read how children “should” act as opposed to how they actually do. Children don’t fit into a mold. They aren’t robots. God didn’t intend them to be. Nor did he intend us to be model mothers and wives. He intended us to be exactly who we are and who He made us to be. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “Thou shalt must have a three course meal served promptly at six pm every night to well behaved children and an eternally satisfied husband in a spotless house that always smells of laundry sheets and Pledge.” Even though I am guilty of it…as evidenced by scrubbing my kitchen floor at 930p.m. last night…when my focus is on trying to be just like the woman on tv or in a magazine who has everything together every minute of every day, my focus isn’t on God and who He wants me to be…what He wants me to do.
The questions Karen listed in Chapter 10 are awesome, and are going to be wonderful tools in my future that I intend to use so I can get myself back into a Godly perspective. But generally, when I am going through difficult circumstances I do tend to ask God what He is wanting me to learn from this? How is He trying to make me grow? What opportunity is He presenting me with right now? Sometimes I come up with answers right away. Other times, it’s months later, and some of those questions I’m still trying to figure out. The secret to my contentment is peace. I just want to have peace to live like God wants me to, not how society expects me to. True contentment is waking up every morning and saying “God, thank you for making me the child you want me to be” and then just embracing and being proud of who I am. As a child and adolescent, I constantly compared myself to the popular girls…how skinny they were, the things they said and didn’t say, did and wouldn’t be caught dead doing, etc. and I tried to be exactly like them instead of who I really was. Luckily, I put zero importance on being popular in adulthood and try to only spend time with people who love and appreciate who I am, quirkiness and all. I learned the sooner I start embracing my differences and special qualities instead of running away from them, the sooner I can start actually living. God Bless!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Blog Hop Week 4

I Thessalonians 5:18-26 NLT: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I absolutely love this verse of scripture, and it definitely resonated with me.  My family and I have had a bit of a rough winter.  My daughter's asthma flareups have seemed endless as my husband and I have been driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out how to manage them.  But it feels like we are always several steps behind.  Finally, after another visit to her specialist, we got her on some medicine that will hopefully manage her flare ups and let her be the happy and healthy baby she is.  Then, just when we thought we were going to get a break, the dreaded cold virus came to town and brought some pink eye along with it.  I was nearing the point of throwing my hands up and pleading to the Lord, "Ok!  Stop, please!  I can't handle anymore!"  Not that my husband wasn't experiencing it with me, but as a mother, it is usually you who is busting your hump day and night trying to keep everyone healthy, fed, and happy, and usually on very little sleep.  I felt overburdened and tired, and just frustrated.  Then, I read this verse.  I smiled instantly.  When I went to work yesterday, my friend asked me how my weekend was, I said, "Well, Caroline has pink eye so she is going to the doctor with her grandmother today to hopefully get that fixed."  Then, I smiled and started chuckling, and my friend said, "What are you laughing about?"  I responded, "Just trying to keep bring joyful in all of my circumstances."  And it worked.  At that moment, I didn't feel sorry for myself.  I felt happy, and thankful that our family hasn't been hit with something much worse that many families, even some we know, are facing or have faced.  I can't say that I am strong enough to see joy in every situation.  When you lose a loved one or someone tries to break your spirit, it is very hard to muster up the strength to find joy there.  But I'll tell ya what...I would much rather try my hardest to be joyful in my circumstance than succumb to the misery of it.  Joy is contagious, you see, and I love nothing more than to make someone happy...to see a bright, shining smile stretched across their face.  That is joy!

I haven't really hit the point where my schedule is too crazy yet.  Our daughter isn't old enough to really get into any activities yet, but I am counting my blessings because I know one day that challenge will come.  Even though, other than church, work, and fire department, we don't have many activities to maintain, Karen's tip, "Don't take on more than you can pray for" really meant so much to me, and really spoke to my heart.  I am ashamed to say that just the day to day sometimes gets so busy, especially if you throw in a sick family member here and there, that sometimes I forget to stop and spend some quiet time with God...and God, please forgive me for this.  You continue to love me, protect me, and give me only your best even though I don't hold up my end of the bargain.  Being members of the prayer chain, sometimes there are a slew of people to pray for, and sometimes just a few...at least that have been put on the prayer chain.  If taken seriously, that is a huge job to pray for all the people on the chain in addition to the people you pray for daily and those who haven't been put on the chain that still need prayer.  So this tip really spoke to me, and it is so true!  

Two things I loved most about this chapter:
A. I loved when Karen was discussing how nature is one thing that only God can control and we can't.  But we accept that we can't change it, we grab what we need to keep our heads coverered and go on.  We don't dwell on what the weather will do because it will literally make zero difference in the outcome.  At the end of the day, or maybe even the beginning, the weather either will or it won't, and the only thing we can do is be prepared!
B.  I loved learning about Esther.  What a Godly and courageous woman she was!  Even though there wasn't much time I'm sure, she still took the time to seek God's guidance instead of her own.  Her ability to stay focused on God's desire of for her path spoke to my heart because she did it gracefully.  
I also loved Karen's tips in the last half of the chapter because each one of them is so very true:
1. Remember God is God and I am not.   Period.  Can't get much more clear than that!  Love it!
2. Pray, and if you must, fast.  Karen stressed praying before acting, which is definitely the most important thing to do.  But I really liked the different ideas of fasting.  Fasting from gossiping about a given situation is a wonderful idea, and one that would be such a blessing carried out.  Gossip is in and of itself bad, and something I know I've been guilty of and still am at times, though I try to keep it in check.  But it makes any situation ten times worse than it should have to be.  Her advice to fast from things other than food so that we can spend that time in prayer and in our Bibles is awesome.  I love to watch tv and look around on the internet shopping sites, but those things are not going to bring me the clarity and comfort that my Lord and Savior will provide when I choose to spend time with Him instead.  I can think of many times when I have been going through something difficult, or someone I love has, and I dove into my Bible and prayed to God to speak to me and give me words to offer strength and comfort.  As a result, I've learned several Bible verses and stories that my mind goes to when I need strength.  If someone I love is going through a difficult time, I write one or more of these verses on a greeting card for them read, and hopefully to give them strength and comfort to get through their rainy days.  

And now, my little angel is awake and ready to start the day!  I'm blessed that this is the way I chose to start mine!  God Bless You!