Friday, January 25, 2013

again and again.......

It's Friday which means it's time to dance and sing (the daycare kids and I have a song and dance to celebrate this glorious day). Friday is also the day in which Lisa-Jo hosts Five Minute Fridays and I humbly join the party of words strung together in five short minutes by a group of fantastic writers. The rules are simple. Write for five minutes flat, no backtracking/editing/over thinking, share your link at Lisa-Jo's, and share the love by reading what others have written. It's great fun and so inspiring. Won't you join us? I promise, you'll be blessed!

Today's word: AGAIN

Again and again. Over and over. 

Many aspects in our lives my life need to be done again and again....and again and again....The laundry, the dishes, feeding the family, paying the bills, going to work. The monotony causes our my attitude to falter. Yet, if I can learn the attitude of gratitude, offering thanks again and again/over and over, God transforms this attitude and opens my eyes. Instead of seeing the drudgery, I can see the blessings.

Laundry? He has provided clothes and given me a family in which to cloth. 

Dishes and feeding the family? Again, I am thankful for his provisions and for a family in which to feed. There are mothers who are wondering how they are going to feed their family today.

House to clean? OH, THANK YOU, FATHER! You have given me and my family a home in which we gather, in which we are kept warm during these very cold Minnesota days. There are homeless who are cold today, worried about finding shelter today. 

"Going" to work and paying bills? Thank you, God, for giving me a job that I LOVE. Thank you for giving a job in which pays the bills. Thank you for giving me the ability to provide for my family. There are many without jobs, struggling to pay the bills.

Again and again I will praise You for I am indeed blessed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Does the Church Love Like Jesus?

A couple of weeks ago, while in the shower...because, of course, this is where all of my great thoughts take place, I was working through my disappointments in my church. The church that I've attended and served for the past 7 years. The church which when my daughter was in the hospital last summer (after an auto accident which could have easily taken her life) prayed for us but didn't know us. After 7 years we were still strangers. One pastor prayed with me on our second day in the hospital. Another pastor visited with me on our tenth day in the hospital. Neither pastors ever followed up to see how Breanna's recovery was progressing. 

Both pastors have warmly but with blank, not-recognizing-me faces, said hello when I walk through the church doors, One of these pastors politely refused my girlfriends requests for holding a benefit at the church to raise money to help us in our time of need, stating, "There are plenty of financial resources at the church (benevolent fund) if they need help", however she never contacted me (other then visiting once in the hospital) to see if our family had any needs - physical, financial, spiritual or otherwise. 

Four weeks after the accident, my first Sunday back to church, our Senior Pastor shook my hand after the church service with a cheerful, "Hello! How are you this morning?" Too busy to know that I cried the whole service (happy tears as I thanked God for his provisions but tears nonetheless). Too busy thinking about shaking the hands of the crowd behind me to really want to know how I was. He doesn't know his sheep. **In his defense, he is a WONDERFUL man.....he speaks God's word and he is always energetic and cheerful.** 

I can make up excuses for the church that otherwise feeds me so well. 

My daughter, Breanna and I have different last names. It gets confusing. Hmm.....but her picture and her last name is in the church directory right next to my picture with my last name. Does the church ever use the directory to learn names and faces? Sounds like a helpful activity.

The church has grown so large that it must be very difficult, even near impossible, to know everyone. I can't imagine trying to shepherd a flock of thousands. But isn't that why we employ a fleet of pastors?

I'm better with faces but horrible with names....I need to give these two associate pastors grace for not recognizing me as the mother of the miracle-that-she-is-alive-daughter whom they prayed with. But did they really care to KNOW me? To know Breanna? To show us Jesus love?

I can forgive the church. I know they have a big job. I also know that it has been my choice to be in this big church. But I worry about this happening to others. What about those who feel "neglected" as I did? Instead of extending grace or searching for a smaller church, will they refuse to forgive the church and in the process blame God? The big question here is this ~ Does the negligence of the church to it's followers AND it's visitors turn some away from God? Honestly, I think it does and that scares me.

My big church has the benefit that in being a large congregation they are able to offer phenomenal programs - student ministries program, a fantastic conference each spring for women, a purity conference for men, concerts with nationally known Christian singers, a handful of class options for women, children, and men. There are great opportunities for discipleship and spiritual growth but in our big church are we losing people because they don't feel LOVE? The church's mission statement is to "Love God. Serve People." I'm not sure about you, but if I don't feel loved I don't feel served. 

Coincidentally (although nothing is really a coincident in this God-orchestrated life), my thoughts regarding the danger of big churches preceded my reading Jen Hatmaker's book "7" (who also happens to be speaking at women's conference held at my church this spring). The book talks of excess. Jen talks of churches that are blessing the blessed but missing those who really need Jesus (we ALL need Jesus but some don't know it). She also writes:

"We are far from Jesus’ original vision; the whole enterprise would be unrecognizable to our early church fathers. The earth is groaning, and we’re putting coffee bars in our thirty-five-million-dollar sanctuaries. Just because we can have it doesn’t mean we should. I marvel at how out of place simple, humble Jesus would be in today’s American churches."

I think it is vital that churches constantly evaluate their priorities and evaluate how and if they are serving God, their community and their flock. It is also important to acknowledge MY responsibility as part of the church. I am responsible in demonstrating the love of Christ. For the body of Christ is "not made up of one part but of many"(1 Corinthians 12:14). 

I'm not leaving the church. Despite the lack of pastoral "love", I am being fed. My husband is involved in a men's bible study group and is growing in faith. My son is involved in a couple small group studies with other teens and is also growing in faith. But what can my church do? What can I do so that others will feel Christ's love? I'm not sure if God is calling me to speak so that those in authority at my church can see that this is an area that needs strengthening or if He is calling me to be the difference.......or maybe both. 

Even I must do my part. I can make small changes by being observant. I can pull out my church directory and start praying over every single person in it! I can do a page a week until I have every name memorized (this may take awhile). Every week on our way to church I can pray that God would keep my eyes open to the needs of other. I can pray that He will give me a boldness to move out of my comfort zone to offer a word of encouragement, a A love like Christ's. This prayer to love others has become my daily prayer. 

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35

 I haven't named my church (although for some of my readers I don't have to)....please don't judge my church. My intent here is not to bad mouth my church because I really do love it! My intent is to make everyone (churches AND individuals) to examine if they are doing everything in their ability to serve others. This message is as much for me as it is for others. I'm still learning and growing as it truly is a life long process.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Wanna Join Me in a Valentine Challenge?

So, at the turn of this New Year I had decided that 2013 is the Year of Relationship. One relationship that I want to strengthen is the relationship with my husband. There's a few areas in my "wife-hood" where I am failing miserably. I mean MISERABLY. I need to love my husband better. It's funny but I've noticed that when I put effort into loving him better that I also start seeing how he blesses me. A heart trained for finding gratitude in all things really can see the blessings in ALL THINGS. :)

Today Courtney, at Women Living Well, announced her four week "Be My Valentine"~Marriage Challenge!
WAHOO! I'm on board!

Here's what Courtney wrote in her announcement:
Each week the challenge will be the same – to praise, encourage, inspire, admire, build up, thank and appreciate your husband. But each week I will give you different ways to express your praise. Feel free to tweak it for what you think is best for your husband.
Week 1 January 21st - Look for ways to praise your husband verbally. Praise him in front of the kids, friends, family, co-workers, on facebook, tweet it – get praise out anyway you can! Try to mention something noteworthy he has done – in his role as provider, father, husband, lover, or friend. If the thought of trying to come up with one terrifies you, then pray right now that God will give you new eyes to see your husband as God does. Then open your mouth and say something kind and uplifting to your husband today and tomorrow and the next day until Valentine’s Day arrives! 
 Week 2  January 28th – This week we will be a little more creative with our praise. I will give you many ideas of fun things you can do to praise your husband such as surprising him with a love message on the mirror, using sidewalk chalk to write on the driveway, making a toast to him at dinner with friends etc. Get creative with your selflessness!
Week 3 February 4th – Pursue intimacy and place the intimate needs of your man above your own. Seek to “kiss him like you mean it” every single day this week! Solomon 5:16 says “His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely.” Paula Rinehart says that for many men, “Sex is like a silent cheer.” Our men feel stronger, more capable, and built up when we respond to their advances with a smile. Give a Foot massage, back rub, shower together, be creative!
 Week 4 February 11th – Women love romance, chocolate and flowers on Valentines Day. Do you know what your husband wants? Ask him! I’ll give you some ideas of what I have planned later :) !

Won't you join me?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Notebook Facelift

Rescued from a stack in my office supplies of used/never used notebooks. Mostly likely bought years ago for 12 cents. 
I've tried using binders for my various bible studies however are big and bulky to carry/store and they also use a lot of lap/table space when I'm writing in them. I'm trying something new for all my note taking. One notebook instead of five binders and/or notebooks. I am hoping that having everything in one place will be convenient and easier for me to stay organized (I've gone to bible study with the wrong binder before....I hate that!). 

So this is my first week with my notebook and I love it! I brought it to church with me and instead of writing notes on the small piece of paper in the bulletin (I always run out of space!), I took notes in my notebook. The half sheet of paper that I used to take notes on usually got lost or thrown so now I have my notes in a spot in which I can refer back to. I've been using the notebook for my daily bible time and last night I brought it to my Women's Bible Study (again, I like that my notebook gives me more space to write then the outline that is passed out for note taking). 

I love my notebook but found that the loose papers (schedules and other print outs) kept falling out of the front.  I need a pocket in my notebook but, after my Christmas spending spree (I was not disciplined in my spending this year), I need to make due with what I have - no going out to buy a fancy notebook with pockets. After a moment of brainstorming, I decided to make my own pocket.

So now I had my pocket but my notebook was far from "pretty". There was one time in my life that I was all about "pretty" but that was many years ago. Now I favor practicality and function over pretty. However.........

This? It's just plain ugly. So I decided to dress it up a bit.

I found a contrasting, yet complimentary color to add to the notebook.
Second color, double sided tape, a little "personalization"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Song for Melody

On December 10, 2012 I spent my day praying for my friend, Melody, who was undergoing a double mastectomy.  I started my day in prayer for her and throughout the day, as God brought her to my mind, I would pause to offer up my prayers. Every time I silently lifted her name to God, I'd begin singing "In my heart there rings a melody...." Although the song does bear her name, I thought it odd that such a cheerful tune would be on my heart when my heart was actually aching for Melody and her family as they were facing a very hard day.

Melody and I met on Facebook through an organizing group. Thousands of women are members of this group yet somehow (although I know the somehow was actually God's plan) we were led to become Facebook friends. Drawn to one another, we messaged back and forth on that day in October. I found that she was a faith-filled, compassionate woman who loves her husband, her children and God very deeply. I also found out that she'd recently been diagnosed with cancer. Despite her fears, she praised her Creator, knowing that he had her in his hands. 

This is the song that I sang on December 10th ~ 
In My Heart There Rings a Melody
I have a song that Jesus gave meIt was sent from heaven above
There never was a sweeter melody
'Tis a melody of love
In my heart there rings a melody
There rings a melody with heaven's harmony
In my heart there rings a melody
There rings a melody of love
I love the Christ who died on Calvary
For He washed my sins away
He put within my heart a melody
And I know it's there to stay
'Twill be my endless theme in gloryWith the angels I will sing
'Twill be a song with glorious harmony
When the courts of heaven ring
And this is the verse that I was drawn to that day, the same verse that gave me comfort during my hard days following my daughter's accident.
Psalm 40:1-4
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the and mire; and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of Praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. 
I am so glad that God put that song on my heart as I prayed that day for Melody. Through tears I was able to praise Him knowing that he has the power to heal ans the power to make something very good out the the very bad.

Although I've never met Melody, we share a common bond. We are sisters in the family of Christ Jesus. Because of this bond I am able to sheds tears for her...the devastating diagnosis of cancer, tears of joy as she and her husband renewed wedding vows in November, tears as she requests prayers for her children. I am so thankful that God has brought her into my life. I am thankful that He has her hand and can lift her out of the mud and mire and put a new song, a joyful melody, in her mouth. 

Friends, Melody's battle isn't over. She is still experiencing extreme pain and will begin chemotherapy in the weeks to come, followed by a complete hysterectomy. Please pray for her body to be rid of the cancer, pray for strength for Melody, her husband and her children.  And also lift your praise to God for Melody's awesome faith.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Orange Shower Spray Recipe

glass jar, orange peels,vinegar, salt, water and a spray bottle

  • Fill jar with orange peels.
  • Sprinkle a little salt on the peels and shake. The salt will help "release" the oils in the peels.
  • Let oranges and salt sit for 20-30 min. (this is a perfect time to check Facebook while eating the oranges).
  • Fill jar with equal amounts of water and vinegar.
  • Shake and find a place for mixture to "fester" for a week, shaking daily. My favorite brewing spot is the top of my refrigerator. This is helpful in that I see my brews that need daily shaking.
  • Place in a spray bottle and use for cleaning (I use mine for a daily shower spray but this could also be used to clean about anything!)

Brews: orange cleaner, elderberry tonic, and lavender infused olive oil

This all purpose cleaning spray is AWESOME in that it's cheap and easy to make plus the oils from the orange peels give it a subtle orange-y scent......much better that the scent of plain vinegar/water.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Is Hubby My Best Friend?

Yesterday, while perusing Facebook, I found that The Time-Warp Wife has just started a series called "The Ultimate Marriage Vow". As 2013 is my Year of Relationship, and lovin' on my hubs is on the top of the list, I decided to mosey on over to see what Darlene had to say.

 Day 1 was "BE A CONSTANT FRIEND AND COMPANION" (head over to blog to read). And then in the afternoon I heard this song.........

I love this song because it makes me want to sway and sing along. I listened to the words a little differently. Love songs don't affect me like they did in high school. In fact, I'm not sure when love songs stopped stirring my heart. Somewhere along the lines the words in love songs where just that. Meaningless words. Was it before meeting my husband, that after many years of disappointments and hurts my heart had become hardened? Or did love songs stir my heart in the beginning of our relationship but they've been quieted because the "honeymoon" is has become practical and unromantic. I really can't remember. 

I do remember, even if love songs didn't stir me, that I was a bit "ga-ga" over him. I remember staying up late at night, after I had put the kids to bed, and talking with him on the phone for hours. I remember the excitement of our weekly date night, the night during the week when I could see him. I remember our long car rides to go visit his kids in which we talked all the way there......and all the way back. These days we can make it all the way to church (30 minute commute) without uttering a word.

Where is that girl that wanted to share all her hopes and dreams with the one whom she would spend the rest of her life with? I want to feel "ga-ga" over my guy again......I want to feel sappy over love songs and my husband.

Darlene's challenge for yesterday/day 2? Give him GRACE! Stop looking at his flaws. I must constantly remind myself that I too am flawed (I know, this is really hard to much as I know this truth I'd like to pretend that it just isn't so!). So he forgets to take the garbage out. He gives me grace on those nights when I'm just too tired to make dinner so I also can give him grace. We are all imperfect, flawed human beings and to focus on those faults can be quite destructive.

So it's time to buck up buttercup. Look past the flaws, focus on the good, make him a priority....make him your best friend! (I'm talking to myself....unless you also need to hear this :) )

The Newlyweds 2008

Then the Lord God made a woman from the ribs he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man."

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 

Genesis 2:22-24 

Even Ann Voskamp is talking about marriage today!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Heart, Soul and Mind

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law,tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:34-40

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Word for 2013 ~ Relationship

Last year I dubbed 2012 as the Year of Less. Less stuff, less clutter, less stress, less body fat, less know the list. All are great goals, and ones that I will probably continue to work on for the rest of my life, but all are quite me-focused. I don't want 2013 to be about me. Although I will always strive to better myself, I am an imperfect person made whole by a perfect God. My focus, my word for 2013, should be God-driven and not self-driven.

A week ago, while reflecting on the past year and preparing for the coming New Year, I began to panic. No word was sticking out for me. What should be my word for 2013? Words came racing through my head yet none seemed quite right. I quieted my thoughts and decided that I'd wait. Instead of finding the right word I let the word come find me. I prayed, "God, please use me for your purpose."  And I waited. Until, on our way to have dinner with friends on New Year's Eve, the word found me. Relationship. I want 2013 to be about developing and strengthening relationships. 

My desire for 2013 is to put people first, to develop a deep and personal relationship with God, to strengthen my marriage, to love my children well, and to love others with a love like Jesus. To love is very easy for me. I genuinely love people. Developing relationships....well that's a little more scary for me. In true, deep relationships I can't just put my "best face forward" and I'm scared to let others see all of me - the good, the bad and the ugly. I'd rather hide my many faults from others. 

Developing relationships also makes me vulnerable to rejection and hurt. What if I reach out to someone and they don't want my love? Wasn't Jesus rejected? Yet he still continued to love, loving to the point of a gruesome death on the cross. I want to love like that. 

My goals for my Year of Relationship:
1. Grow closer to God through the sweet fellowship with Him. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. Matt. 22:37

2. Place my husband on the top of my priority list and find ways to love him well.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

3. Communicate to my children how important they are to me. I will strive to be less critical and more patient.

4. Develop a closer relationship to my stepchildren.
5. Spend time with extended family. 
6. Show love and compassion to those that I see daily - my daycare children and their families.
7. Make time for friends.
8. Be hospitable. I want my house to have an open door to others.
9. Show Christ's love to every person that I come into contact with. Every day.

 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. 
John 13:35

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Five Minute Friday ~ Opportunity

How many opportunities have I missed because I shrugged off the little heart tugs? You know, that little yearning that says, "Reach out!" or "Say something!" yet fear stops those tugs dead in their tracks. 

Fear shouts outs, "LOOK THE OTHER WAY!", "Don't intrude!" or "M.Y.O.B." (mind your own business ~remember that from grade school?)

Could these heart tugs be the Holy Spirit trying to lead me? Quite possibly and by not following the direct call of God, by missing the opportunity to touch another human being with the love of Christ, I am failing God miserably. 

As I embrace my Year of Relationship, the year of loving like Jesus, I need to embrace each heart tug. I need to rid myself of caution and fear so that I may love selflessly, with compassion and with an attitude of servitude. 

 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Jesus loved us so much that he lay down his life......he died for you and me! That's how I want to love.