What Purchasing a Vehicle Revealed About My Marriage

Fall 2015

My husband and I have been wanting to purchase a second vehicle for over a year. We had made our one-car-situation work for the first 4 years of our marriage, but my husband’s recent change in profession made it impossible for me to continue my volunteer activities without inconveniencing somebody else to give me a ride or let me borrow their car.

So this fall/winter we buckled down on our budget and started faithfully saving as much as we could. Our hard work (okay, mostly his long hours of hard earned money and my diligence in pinching pennies) paid off. We were delighted to find out our taxes were going to cost us thousands of dollars less than we had anticipated, which meant we’d have plenty in savings to purchase a used second vehicle. (Note: due to the nature of my husband’s previous job, taxes weren’t taken out of his paychecks throughout the year, so we knew we’d be paying in when tax season rolled around).

Thus, we began our search for a decent used vehicle within our price range. The first night of our search started out okay, but half-way through, my husband threw up his hands and said, “Here, you do it if you’re going to be so picky.” In my mind I had simply requested it be a reliable vehicle with good gas mileage, less than 130K miles, preferably a Saturn or VW Jetta, recently inspected, not any older than 2004, and not in need of any repairs… all this in a vehicle costing under $3000.

Okay, maybe I was a bit picky…

 

A little while before John had resigned himself from our car search and buried his nose in a business magazine, he had narrowed our search down to two vehicles costing $1500 or less. I looked up at him incredulously and proclaimed, “You’re willing to drop two grand on a computer at the drop of a hat, but cringe at the thought of spending more than $1500 for a car!” I said it in jest, but with a hint of exasperation. He smiled widely and lightheartedly responded, “Yes! Now you’re getting it!” Of course I couldn’t hold back my own smile, yet I was also secretly irritated about his reluctance to spend much on vehicles.

Personally, I didn’t believe three grand was too much to put into a vehicle, especially if it meant it’d be more reliable than our current car. We paid $1400 in cash for our 2001 Saturn Station Wagon and within the first few months had to dish out an additional $600 or so in repairs. Every time a wheel barring would go awry or something else needing fixing I was very vocal in my complaints. Soon I was pointing fingers accusingly at the auto repair shop we’d faithfully brought our cars to through the years. Without even realizing it, I was wearing down my husband like a constant dripping of a faucet (see Proverbs 27:15).

faucet

Then, one night as we were getting ready for bed and discussing our current car search, his feelings of exasperation were unfurled. “You can choose whatever car you want, because I don’t want to hear you complain when this new one needs repairing, too.” Ouch. I was silent for a long moment as I took in his words. I then gently asked if he was upset with me. Slowly, as he spoke the truth about my wrong attitudes, my eyes were opened to just how much I had drained my husband through my constant negativity.

All the verses from Proverbs about vexing and complaining wives came flooding into my mind… “It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman” (Proverbs 21:19)… “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 25:24)…. “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike” (Proverbs 27:15)… “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1)…

proverbs

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks… I AM THAT WOMAN. I prayed right then and there that God would help me to change and to never again complain about the state of our vehicles. With my words I was tearing down my husband and my marriage. I knew only God could intervene.

After praying together that night and before drifting off to sleep, I sincerely apologized to John for all the times I had complained about our Saturn.

By the grace of God, He did change me. Low and behold, only a week after purchasing our 2005 Dodge it overheated on the interstate. I was silent. Then, a few months later (due to me rear-ending a car), we had to have our radiator replaced. Again, I did not complain (how could I when it was my own fault?). Then, another few months later when our Saturn did not pass inspection, I held back all negative thoughts.

I’m learning to thank God more often when things are going right with our vehicles. I’m learning to show appreciation to John when he takes care of them so I don’t have to deal with them. And I’m learning to remain silent and pray instead when something does need repairing.

Has God ever given you an experience like my own? Has He used your husband to show you your shortcomings and gently discipline you? I’d love to hear about it.

My Top 10 Favorite Books Read in 2016

In 2016 I read a record number of books: 78! Since being hired as a nanny last October I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I used to, but I still have a stack of books I’m longing to peruse through in 2017.

But here are my favorites from 2016 (in no particular order):

1. The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages by Shaunti Feldhahn

happymarriages

I purchased this book because another blogger had highly recommended it and I was not disappointed. I love that Shaunti Feldhahn’s books are packed with statistics and personal anecdotes from couples across the country. It was an easy, quick read that kept my attention and opened my eyes to areas I needed to work on in my own marriage. Definitely a book worth your time and money.

2. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Philip Keller

shepherd

I was given this book as a gift and again, was far from disappointed. Reading about the cultural background of Bible passages fascinates me, so when Keller explained various habits and traits of shepherds and their sheep alike, it gave me a completely different outlook on passages referring to sheep. Such a neat glimpse into the life of a shepherd and why we’re so often likened to sheep in the Bible. Read this!

3. Just Give Me Jesus by Anne Graham Lotz

annegraham

I enjoyed this book so much I put it on my wishlist (I’d borrowed a copy from our church library). I also picked up the “sequel” to this title, but I’m not nearly as impressed with it and months later am still not even half-way through. Anne’s style of writing is a bit different from what I’m used to, but this book really did leave me yearning to grow in my walk with Jesus. It also taught me some timely lessons.

4. In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham

presence

For some reason this book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t familiar with the Burnham’s story beforehand, or maybe because I wasn’t expecting such raw honesty from Gracia of the struggles she faced. Her humanity was evident throughout, yet so was her firm trust in and love for God despite the horrific circumstances she faced. Stories like hers moves something within me, encouraging me in the midst of my own hardships.

5. Knowing God by J.I. Packer

knowinggod

I was a little hesitant about picking this one up because I’d tried reading a book authored by J.I. Packer previously and most of it went way over my head. But I enjoyed this particular book. It definitely causes one to stop and reflect, and it’s a book that a reader cannot merely “skim”. It’s definitely worth the time and effort spent examining the contents of this title.

6. No Grain, No Pain by Dr. Peter Osbourne

nograin

Dr. Peter Osborne opened my eyes to the important of nutrition like no other book. I’ve been eating gluten-free for five years, but after reading this book I realized my remaining joint point could actually stem from eating grains like rice, oatmeal, and corn. Though I haven’t been consistently disciplined in staying away from grains, I have definitely noticed a negative difference in how I feel after eating them.

7. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

normal

I was surprised by the ways Watchman Nee challenged my thinking about Christianity and what should be “normal” as we live out our faith. If you want to grow in your walk with Christ, I recommend this book to you.

8. Unglued by Lisa Terkeurst

unglued

I listened to this audio-book while training for my marathon. Despite the fact I don’t yet have children of my own (and I wasn’t even a nanny at the time), I still connected with the author’s words. I love how vulnerable and honest Lysa was throughout the book, and she always pointed her readers back to Christ. If you are a woman who struggles with becoming “unglued” from time-to-time, this book will be a great encouragement to you.

9. Hands Free Life by Rachel Stafford

handsfree

I liked this book so much I gave a copy to my sister to read. The author’s habits are straight-forward yet challenging and empowering. Moms with little ones would especially benefit from her wisdom (and she actually has another similar book targeting this particular audience called, “Hands Free Mama”).

10. 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People by Sally Beare

50secrets

I picked this book up at a second-hand bookstore because it was cheap and the title intrigued me. I love learning about healthy habits, not necessarily because I want to live to 100 here on earth, but because I want to take care of this body God has entrusted to me for as long as He loans it to me. A lot of the habits were a given, but I was surprised by others. For example, one secret of the world’s longest living people is “Eat more pizza.” Really?! This book kept my interest throughout and though it wasn’t life-transforming, I still really enjoyed perusing its pages.

What were your favorite titles from 2016? Please leave a comment below, I love hearing about new books to pick up!

 

An Open Letter of Advice to a Friend Turning 22

Dear Christina,

Happy Birthday! You asked all your friends to compile up to 10 pieces of advice for you as you journey through your twenties. Since I was quite sick with Chronic Lyme in my early to mid-twenties, this requires much effort on my part to recollect the greatest lessons I’ve learned thus far. To jog my memory a bit, I’m going to go ahead and outline below a few of my greatest accomplishments, hardships, and the happiest events from the past 7 years of my life.

Greatest Accomplishments:

  1. Memorized the Book of Philippians
  2. Ran a half marathon (13.1 miles)
  3. Shared the Gospel with countless children
  4. Memorized the Book of 1 John
  5. Learned to play piano
  6. Wrote a Bible study for Girls Group (unpublished)
  7. Started an online blog
  8. Memorized the Book of 2 Timothy
  9. Completed a 26.2 mile marathon
  10. Read 78 books in one year

Greatest Hardships:

  1. 5.5 years of Lyme treatment
  2. Childlessness (I expected to have at least 1 child by 25 years of age)
  3. Loneliness
  4. Job searching (twice)

Happiest Events:

  1. Spent a summer in Madagascar, Africa
  2. Graduated College
  3. Married John
  4. Stood as a Bridesmaid for 2 sisters and 2 friends
  5. Became an Aunt for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th times
  6. Became a Nanny

 

MY ADVICE TO YOU (in no particular order):

#1 Thankfully, as you can see from my list above, the good that has occurred throughout my twenties has clearly outweighed the bad, though sometimes it feels like the hard things in life hold more weight than the pleasant ones. That being said, I guess my first piece of advice would be to FOCUS ON GOD’S GOODNESS & BLESSINGS, rather than on your problems. Colossians 3:2 says to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” There will always be problems in this life, whether you’re 22 or 72. I know I don’t have to elaborate about hardships to you, since you too have been suffering with Chronic Lyme for just as long or longer than myself, but we need to be reminded often to keep our eyes on Jesus.

#2 That brings me to number two. Be sure to SHARE YOUR BURDENS WITH THOSE WHO LOVE AND SUPPORT YOU. When you’re at your worst it’s easy to start believing the lies that nobody cares or understands what you’re going through. If you’re like me, you bottle your emotions inside and have a tendency to push people away when you need them most. As hard as it may be when you’re feeling lousy, reach out to somebody so they can support you through the pain or whatever else you’re dealing with. The Bible says Christians are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). I’m so grateful for the faithful few who have prayed for and with me, encouraged me, and helped me through my most trying moments. Identify who those people are in your life and express your gratitude to them.

#3 PRACTICE GRATITUDE DAILY. When I first started my Lyme treatment I became depressed. I was cynical and didn’t feel I had all that much to be grateful for. But I’ve since learned that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful about. We’re admonished to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Praying for people less fortunate than myself and keeping a gratitude journal are two habits that have helped me to cultivate a thankful heart, even on tough days. Being grateful truly transforms your attitude about life!

#4 DON’T GET UPSET OR DISCOURAGED IF LIFE DOESN’T TURN OUT THE WAY YOU PLAN IT TO. I am 27 years old and other than marrying my sweetheart, nothing in my life has gone “according to plan.” Nothing has gone the way I planned it, but of course I know it’s gone exactly the way God planned. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Knowing and believing God is sovereign and has your life in His hands will make the disappointments of your life so much easier to bear. At 25 years of age I expected to have at least one child and be a stay-at-home mommy, live in foreign country as a missionary, and be back to “normal” health-wise. When I started Lyme treatment I was told it would take 3-4 years before I was healthy again. It’s been nearly 6 years and I’m still experiencing  unwanted symptoms, I’m still living in Vermont, and am still childless. Life will likely not go the way you plan it to in the next 8 years, but instead of getting upset about it, praise God that He has a perfect plan for your life.

#5 Many a time throughout the past several years of Lyme treatment I’ve wrestled with God over the whys of my suffering. Though I am still not 100% fully recovered, I am feeling far better than when my treatment began, so I have a bit of hindsight, now. As I mentioned earlier, my sickness has kept me in the States and kept me from bearing children. Yet, it’s also provided me with countless opportunities to teach the Bible to children all across Vermont. My involvement with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Vermont has progressively increased, thus expanding my influence across the state. I see now that if I had been healthy, I probably would have missed out on many of the ministry opportunities God has blessed me with. Though less impressive than foreign missions work by the world’s standards, the ministry I’ve done among the children of Vermont has been invaluable. To quote mother Theresa, my fifth piece of advice for you is to “DO SMALL THINGS WITH GREAT LOVE.” Jesus said Himself, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).

#6 Next, I want to stress the importance of developing the habit of spending time with Jesus. Nothing can replace a daily quiet time. Through study of the Bible and private prayer I have experienced and learned things that never would have been possible any other way. You cannot grow in your faith without these indispensable habits. John 3:30 says, “He must become greater, I must become less.” In order for this to happen in your own life, you must be sure to MAKE SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS A PRIORITY EVERY SINGLE DAY. The more of God’s Word you have in your mind, the better off you will be as you navigate through the ups and downs of your twenties (and thirties, forties, etc.).

#7 SET WEEKLY, MONTHLY, AND YEARLY GOALS AND MEET THEM. As I skim my list of accomplishments, I’m struck by the fact most of those came about because I made a goal, laid out a plan, and followed the steps to make it happen. Even though your life may not go as you plan it to, it’s still important for you to live intentionally as opposed to letting your life slip by without any purpose or aim. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, “Not that I have achieved all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:14). Is there a book you’ve been wanting to sit down and read? Make a plan and stick to it. Is there a cute outfit you’d like to save up to buy? Write it down and start saving toward your goal. Do you want to start exercising? Find someone to keep you accountable and do it together. Below is a chart I made that you will hopefully find helpful as you pursue your goals.

Desired Outcome of Goal

Benefits of Meeting Your Goal Potential Obstacles to Meeting Goal Specific Steps to Take  What You Will Need to Accomplish Goal

Date to Meet Goal By

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#8 In addition to pursuing goals, I want to encourage you to PURSUE YOUR PASSIONS AND HOBBIES. Learning to play piano is something I really wanted to do, so when the opportunity arose, I seized it. It’s not easy to learn a new instrument in your twenties, but it is feasible- I’m living proof! I also really love to run. For several years I was unable to run at all, so when my body was finally well enough to start up once again, I enjoyed every opportunity I got. And it’s my love for this hobby that led to finishing my first half and full marathons, a year apart. So whatever you enjoy doing, do it wholeheartedly. And if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, seek after it in your twenties. There’s no better time than today! After all, Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a).

#9 You and I have shared dreams of raising future children and I know you’d love to get married some day. Let me encourage you to START PREPARING FOR YOUR FUTURE AS A WIFE AND MOTHER NOW, even before you meet your future husband. If you want to know how you can prepare for what the future may hold for you, you need look no further than Proverbs 31. Many people think you’ll “learn as you go,” and while this is true to an extent, there are still so many ways you can prepare ahead of time that will minimize conflict. So don’t wait to learn how to cook, balance a checkbook, or care for children, start now! And start praying for your future husband and children today!

#10 DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Galatians 6:4 says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” God made you who you are for a reason. Don’t waste time wishing you were like someone else. Embrace the unique quirks that make you Christina and don’t worry about what others think about you. Nobody is perfect and we’re all a work in progress, so give yourself and others grace as you continue to seek the Lord.

I hope these have been helpful to you. I cherish our friendship and look forward to what God is going to do in your life in the next several years. I love you, Christina! Happy Birthday!

Love,

Clare

The Results of My Goals in December

My goal for December was to become more content [experience and acknowledge the sufficiency of God’s provision] by enjoying every moment with my husband, noting two things I liked about my body every week, fasting from pinterest, blogs, and magazines, and living simply & giving generously. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.  

  1. Faith- (I) Memorize and meditate upon appropriate verses, (II) Pray every day that God would help me be content in every circumstance, (III) Pray for those less fortunate than myself, and (IV) Weekly meditate on the fact God owns everything.

(I) The first half of this month, I did a terrible job of being intentional and consistent with this goal. Finally I got a good system down where I’d review my verses in the car most mornings before starting my work day. It was a good reminder of where my focus should be for the day.

(II) I was far more consistent with this goal than the previous. Just like former months, writing down my short prayer daily helped to hold me accountable.

(III) There were only a couple days I didn’t consciously do this, though I’m sure I still prayed for at least one individual struggling somehow throughout the days I “missed.”

(IV) I did this three out of the four weeks this past month. It’s such a good reminder that my bank account, husband, jobs, possessions, etc. don’t belong to me. All of it belongs to the Lord and I am merely a steward of these things.

2. Marriage– (I) Enjoy him (cuddle time, hugs, etc.).

christmas2016

(I) Some of you may be thinking, “What kind of goal is that? Don’t you do that all the time?” Yes, and no. Anybody who has been married for more than two years knows how easy it is to take your spouse for granted. But more than that, I knew the month of December would be difficult for me because John would be working so many overtime hours. Little did I know how my own work schedule would disrupt our time together even more. But despite the challenges, I tried to enjoy every moment spent with John- from lying in bed cuddling before drifting off to sleep, to car rides, to playing games together or watching netflix side-by-side. It could’ve been easy to resent the days we weren’t able to see each other, but instead, the absence truly made our hearts fonder and the time we did get together all the sweeter. (See “Lessons Learned” section below for more on this).

3. Health- (I) Continue gratitude journal, and (II) Look in the mirror and note one thing I like about it 2X per week.

(I) There were only a couple days I missed writing down three things I was thankful for. This exercise has truly been priceless this past year as I believe it’s made me a slightly more positive person.

SAM_0348

(II) I only did this while looking in a mirror once, while the rest of the weeks I simply wrote two things down in my journal. I’m not sure if it was all that beneficial in helping me be more content. By the fourth week I had to think really hard about two last things I liked about my body, which required me to first eliminate the things I didn’t like. Oh well. Nobody’s body is perfect. I may be hairy and have lopsided knees, have wispy gray hair and disfigured knuckles, but I still have much to be grateful for in this body God has blessed me with. Someday I will have a new body that will work perfectly. Until then, I must keep my eyes on Jesus, take care of my body and choose to be content with what I’ve been given.

4. Homemaking- (I) Avoid Pinterest, blogs, magazines, etc. that will encourage me to compare myself to others, and (II) Freeze grocery spending ($140 for whole month) and use up pantry and freezer items this month.

(I) I used Pinterest on several occasions, but I don’t think I perused it just to waste time during December. I was off Facebook for the month (though twice I logged in: 1) to respond to an event invitation and 2) to contact a friend in a time of need), which proved to be more beneficial than I realized. I didn’t know how refreshing it was until January 1st, when my fast from social media ended. I spent over an hour “catching up” and afterward I felt so disgusted with myself for having wasted so much time in one sitting. It also reminded me once again of what my life was “missing.” My News Feed was bombarded with pictures of family and friends with their little ones. While I love seeing each one, it’s still a stinging reminder of the fact I’m still childless.

Needless to say, I’m glad I stayed away for a month. To be honest, I was so busy I hardly missed it. Though, admittedly, I did find myself looking over John’s shoulder a couple times while he perused his own Facebook account. He was sure to give me hard time about it, too. “I thought you were off Facebook for the month… ha!” As for blogs and magazines, again I was much too busy to miss these things.

One of the reasons I stayed away from social media was to avoid comparing myself to others. As Theodore Roosevelt “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I believe it is also a thief of contentment. One Thursday evening I had a Christmas cookie exchange with the ladies in my church. Two batches of my cookies did NOT come out the way they were supposed to. It’s a little embarrassing how terribly they turned out. Yet, instead of get upset, I laughed out loud at the pathetic mess I’d made. Then, I promptly sent the picture below to my sisters and mom with this text:

“Do you think these are Pinterest worthy? Hahahaha!”

cookiefail

Below are the Pinterest images of the cookies I was ATTEMPTING to make. Good thing this was a month of not comparing myself to others!

 

(II) So… as far as freezing spending goes… it didn’t happen. Not. At. All. In fact, I went over a “normal” month’s grocery budget. I should’ve known better than to set such a lofty goal during December of all months.

groceries

5. Interactions– (I) Give generously ($140 to those in need from normal grocery budget).

(I) So even though I didn’t cut our grocery budget in half, thankfully, since both John and I worked way more hours this past month than usual, we were still able to give generously. What a blessing to make more so you can give more! It truly is far more wonderful to give than to receive.

 

WHAT I LEARNED IN DECEMBER

Lesson #1: My Husband Cannot Satisfy My Deepest Needs

I was given plenty of opportunities to press into Jesus during John’s absence this past month. As I mentioned earlier, our schedules clashed more than I anticipated and there were several days in which I literally only saw him when he or I climbed into bed for the night. I discovered how lonely such days could be, even though I’ve been separated from him for over a week at a time on other occasions. It’s just different when neither of you are away on a trip.

christmas_2016_3

I knew I’d see less of him during December since it was peak season for delivery drivers, but I’d expected to at least be able to spend an hour together before heading to bed. In reality, many days I merely received a quick, “I love you,” and smooch goodnight. All of this to say, I cannot rely on quality time with my husband to satisfy me. He won’t always be there for me because he’s only human and mortal. The only One Who will always be with me is Christ. It’s wonderful to have a godly spouse to share life with, but he cannot meet my every need, nor can I meet his every need.

Lesson #2: My Dream Job Cannot Satisfy Me

William Bennett tells a story in The Book of Virtues about a young boy who is given a magic silver ball with a protruding gold thread that when pulled will speed up portions of his life when he is bored or tried. He uses it only a little bit at first, making an hour pass in a second, but slowly he begins to use it more and more, until he reaches the end of his life with much regret:

“But sadly when he comes to the end of his life, Peter realizes the emptiness of such an existence. By allowing impatience and discontentment to rule him, Peter has robbed himself of life’s richest moments and memories. With only the grave to look forward to, he deeply regrets ever having used the magic thread.”

I think of this story often when I get bored at work and find myself constantly looking at the clock. Don’t get me wrong, I love my jobs, and they’re a perfect fit for my interests and gifts, but I’m still tempted to wish away the day so I can get home and relax some days. How sad!

I’ve been given a beautiful opportunity to hone my skills as a future mother, to invest in the lives of three precious children, and to have a blast playing with them, yet I still have Peter’s discontented attitude sometimes! This just goes to show that even a job I’ve been pining over and really enjoy cannot satisfy me. It’s the times that I forget self and focus on serving and investing in the children and residents [on Fridays I work at an assisted living home] that I feel most fulfilled after a work shift. That’s because I’m choosing to live like Jesus, and laying aside my selfish desires.

Lesson #3: Pregnancy and/or Children Cannot Fulfill Me

I’ve heard it said that if you’re not content in your current circumstances, you never will be content, no matter what situation you find yourself in. I have to remind myself of this when the desire to be a mother creeps into my mind. After having the privilege of nannying or babysitting an average of 32 hours a week this past month, I’ve discovered two major benefits to watching others’ children:

  1. I get generously compensated for having fun with their children, and
  2. I can go home at the end of the day/night and be free from responsibility (and sleep without disturbance)

So, if I’m not content with my life currently, motherhood will be a rude awakening… One day, when I have my own children, neither of these benefits will apply to me. So despite what I tell myself when I feel I’m “missing out” on motherhood, I know bearing and raising children will not bring the fulfillment I desire it to.

Lesson #4: A “Comfy” Bank Account Cannot Gratify Me

A couple years ago, John and I basically lived paycheck to paycheck each month. There were even months when we have to cut into our small savings account because our bills exceeded our take-home pay. But today, both he and I have been blessed with good paying jobs and our savings account is slowly building each month. I realized this past month that despite the fact John is making more than he’s ever made, I’m no more satisfied now than I was just a couple years ago when our financial situation was different. In fact, I probably think about money the same amount as I used to. The only difference now is that I’m not constantly bringing my anxieties about finances to Him. So, it makes me wonder, is a comfy bank account a blessing… or curse?

Lesson #5: Entertainment Cannot Make Me Happy

I already mentioned earlier how staying off Facebook for the month was beneficial for me. Sure, there were times when I was tempted to log in… especially when friends would make comments in person like, “Oh yeah, you’re not on Facebook- you didn’t see that post.” Sometimes I felt a little out of the loop, but in the end it was for the better.

tv

I probably watched more movies and t.v. episodes in December than I had the previous three months combined. I now wish I had made it a goal to limit my Netflix exposure to weekends. Thanks to the booming industry of online shopping, John worked long hours in December, I had many lonely evenings to myself and squandered most of them by watching cheesy romantic Christmas movies. What a waste of time!

Despite how predictable and tacky most of them were, I kept going back for more, night after night. There is no satisfaction in watching sentimental chick-flicks in the emptiness of your own home. I’m disappointed in how many countless hours I wasted. It was always easy to justify, of course: “You’ve worked hard today… you deserve this,” or “This is a good way to unwind for the night,” or “At least you’re getting housework done at the same time…” Yet, I found my mom’s words from my childhood still ring true today:

“Garbage in, garbage out.”

I recently saw an object lesson demonstrated in which clean, pure water was poured into a glass full of murky, dirty water. (The glass sat in a large bowl to catch the overflow of water). As the pure water was poured into the glass, the murky water slowly disappeared, until all that remained in the glass was clear water. The murky water represents our minds, filled with junk from the media and other sources. The pure water represents God’s Word. The more time we spend putting junk into our minds, the more murky our lives become. But the more time we spend in God’s Word, the clearer our lives become. Oh how murky I allowed my mind and life to become this past month! It’s this very reason that I’ve made a new resolution for 2017 to only watch entertainment with or without John on the weekends.

Conclusion

Adrian Rogers makes a bold statement in What Every Christian Ought to Know. He says,

“The most miserable man on Earth is not an unsaved man but a saved man out of fellowship with God.”

I think I experienced this during a couple weeks in December. I allowed my jobs, sleep, entertainment, and money to crowd out the Lord. What could have been a month filled with precious fellowship with Jesus, I spent pursuing the “fleeting pleasures of sin”, instead. Nothing satisfies but Christ alone. I knew this before the month even began, yet I still sought other things for fulfillment.

I’m grateful God is patient and compassionate toward me. And I’m grateful that even though the year has come to an end and my “project” has come to an end, God will still continue to refine and mold me into His image. I still have SO much more room for growth.

…Stay tuned for a summary post about my year-long project. God bless!

Labor of Love

Lyrics:

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
On the streets of David’s town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
For the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

It was not a silent night
On the streets of David’s town

Songwriters: ANDREW PETERSON
Artist: Point of Grace
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

An Update on November’s Goals & Lessons on Gratefulness

November’s Focus = Gratefulness

My goal for November was to become more grateful [thankful for God’s blessings] by doing a “30 ways I’m grateful for you” project for John, recording 5 things daily that I was grateful for in a gratitude journal, praying for those less fortunate than myself daily, and voicing my appreciation daily. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

  1. Faith- (I) Pray every day that God would increase my thankfulness, (II) Thank God everyday for at least 5 specific things, and (III) Pray daily for those who are less fortunate than myself.

(I) I did this almost every day this past month.

(II) Again, there were a couple days I didn’t physically write down five things I was thankful for, but I probably still thanked Him throughout my day a minimum of five times. I have been thanking God in my journal for three things daily since the first of the year, but this month I increased it to five items. It’s definitely been a beneficial habit, but I think three things a day is a more realistic number.

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(III) This definitely got me thinking about all the ways in which I am blessed. I prayed for a large range of people- from those suffering from persecution to those with physical ailments. From individuals lacking more rest than myself to those struggling with loneliness. I found that anybody can be “less fortunate” in one way or another to me. It didn’t cause me to look down on people, but to be aware of their needs and how I could lift them to the Lord.

  1. Marriage– (I) Voice my appreciation to John daily, and (II) create a “30 ways I’m grateful for you” project.

(I) I developed this habit early on in marriage and it has served us well. From taking out the trash to running an errand for me, I always try to thank him for all he does. In reciprocation, he thanks me often, as well.

(II) Every day of the month I finished this statement regarding John, “I’m grateful…” I plan to type up, print, and tape them to one granola bar each. He always takes one to work with him, so it’ll be something he can look forward to reading every day and will hopefully encourage him.

  1. Health- (I) Create artwork that highlights what I’m most grateful for every day.

(I) Thanks to my new nanny job, I had plenty of opportunities to work on my gratefulness art project as the children colored or painted beside me. I love coloring, and it’s even better when you can get paid for it!

  1. Homemaking- (I) Thank God for each chore as I do it.

(I) This was usually an afterthought, but at least I never complained about doing any of my chores.

  1. Interactions– (I) Voice my thanks at every opportunity, and (II) Write a personal thank you note weekly.

(I) Though I’ve always tried to voice appreciation, this month I especially tried to be genuine in my thanksgiving. Having been a cashier, I know the difference between a genuine thank you, and a forced, but polite thank you. I really don’t want my appreciation to fall into the latter category.

(II) I did this three out of the four weeks this past month. My husband does this far more often than me, and I would do well to emulate him.

 

WHAT I LEARNED

One of my favorite books is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father were arrested during WWII for hiding Jews in their home to protect them from the Nazis. Corrie and Betsie found themselves in a Nazi concentration camp where they continued to serve God and give Him thanks. One particular evening they prayed out loud together, giving God thanks. The excerpts below are from Corrie’s book:

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for-“
The fleas! This was too much.
“Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,'” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Betsie was waiting for me… Her eyes were twinkling…
“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well, I’ve found out.”
That afternoon, she said, there had been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it. “But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?” Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!'”
TheHidingPlace-cover

Reading those passages have forever changed the way I look at awful circumstances. Of course, it’s far easier to have Betsy’s attitude after the fact, when God reveals why things occurred as they did. To be thankful in the midst of chronic pain, joblessness, or discipline issues with a child is a completely different thing altogether. Well, God gave me many opportunities to practice gratefulness in far from ideal circumstances.

I have so much to be grateful for, especially this past month. God answered several of my prayers, accomplishing things only He could do.

The first answered prayer was in regard to the marathon I was able to complete at the beginning of the month. As mentioned in my post about October’s goals, I was experiencing excruciating pain in my right leg every time I put pressure on it. With my marathon less than a week away, I questioned why God was allowing this to happen. I’d worked so hard for so many months and now with every stride I felt a sharp, shooting pain go down my leg. How was I going to get through 26.2 miles of agony? Then, God reminded me that even in this I was to praise Him and thank Him.

Thank Him for pain? Thank Him for allowing something that could shatter my dream of completing a marathon?  What could I possibly be thankful for in regard to this circumstance? Well, I thanked Him that He was still with me, regardless of whether I could run pain-free or not. I thanked Him for all He’d allowed me to accomplish thus far. And I thanked Him that the pain reminded me to pray and rely on Him. I was also honest with Him and said, “God, You have only to gain by allowing me to run this marathon without pain. I will give You all the glory. Will You please take this from me?”

I went to bed the night before with a limp, but the next morning throughout my 4:21:43 race, I experienced minimal pain! Praise God! I know He answered my prayer because to this day (a month later), I still cannot run pain-free. But He lavished His grace upon me during that race increasing my gratefulness all the more.

I had another amazing answer to prayer this past month, as well. For months during the summer and into the fall I searched for a new job, to no avail. I was hired one day a week at an assisted living home at the beginning of October, but I knew I needed something more. What I really wanted was to be a nanny, yet nobody seemed to be interested in hiring me. One day my co-worker called to ask if I could switch from Mondays to Fridays and I agreed.

Literally a day later I was contacted by a woman on care.com who had seen my profile and wanted to interview me for a nanny position. She needed somebody Monday-Friday, but when I told her I was only available Monday-Thursday she said that’d be perfect since her old nanny was able to only watch her kids on Fridays, now. At the interview they asked if I could start the following week. I was blown away! It was only a couple days earlier that I had switched shifts, and I hadn’t even applied for this job I was being offered on the spot! I was completely in awe of God and His perfect timing.

I am now into my third week as a nanny and I absolutely love this job. It has its challenges- mostly in the form of an obstinate 4-year-old boy- but it’s so rewarding and loads of fun. I have to remind myself of the good times when I’m stressed out over having to discipline one of the children for the second or third time that day. Discipline has always been the most difficult part of babysitting for me, and one particular child was making my job especially wearisome. But I realized my problems with this child helped me to be more aware of my need for God.

Often I can go through an entire day hardly acknowledging the Lord apart from my daily quiet time. But facing this issue has caused me to cry out to God for wisdom and help repeatedly. And time after time, afterward I see His hand in it and how He gave me the patience or words or love I needed just when I needed them. I’ve also found that thanking God for this difficult child and praying for him has helped me respond more graciously in the trying moments.

One evening, after day two of my new job, I was venting my frustrations with a friend. She mentioned (in the context of potty training) that praising kids for their accomplishments seemed to be effective. That’s when God opened my eyes to realize that I had been so focused on this little boy’s naughty behavior that I’d failed to encourage and thank him when he was doing the right thing. The next morning I bathed the day in prayer and asked God to change my heart toward this 4-year-old. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through that day had God not changed my attitude. Right off the bat, his parents left when he was in the middle of a tantrum and he was bound and determined to get into mischief.

Praise God He helped me diffuse the situation and convince the little boy to help me put a puzzle together, instead. I know it was all God because had I faced this same scenario 24 hours earlier, both he and I would’ve been miserable. Instead, we had the most fun together, to date!

spiderweb

That isn’t the only trying  circumstance I faced this month. Another test of my thankfulness came in the form of a negative pregnancy test. It’s no secret that John and I are trying to conceive our first baby. For several weeks I thought for sure I was experiencing pregnancy symptoms. My luteal phase was several days longer than the previous past two months’, so I was hopeful God had answered my prayers. I finally broke down and took a test, but when it came back negative I convinced myself it was still too early to tell. A few days later, however, my menstrual cycle began.

negativepregnancytest

While preparing my breakfast of four over-easy eggs, I couldn’t prevent the tears from streaming down my face. John happened to have the day off and was pacing and praying throughout the downstairs of our apartment. I turned toward the cupboards and was careful not to draw his attention to my tears, but he sensed something was wrong and paused to peer at me near the kitchen stove. When I finally turned to look at him slowly, he gently wrapped his arms around me without a word, allowing me to sob all over his clean shirt. He didn’t have to ask what was wrong, for he figured it had something to do with my childlessness. This was certainly not the first time in our 5.5 years of marriage that I’d broken down about this very issue.

Later that same day God reminded me yet again that I need to be thankful, even in this. At first I gave Him a laundry list of reasons why this news was not to my benefit. I had to fight lies about Him withholding good from me and other fearful thoughts about Him never allowing me to bear children. But, eventually I gave in and thanked Him, writing these words in my journal: “God, thank You for my period, that I’m not pregnant, for a fun date with John, for Costco shopping trips, and for relief from cramps.”

In short, I have much to be grateful for, even when I face less than ideal circumstances. God is good!

 

What are your thoughts on gratefulness?

 

December Goals

My goal for December is to become more content [experience and acknowledge the sufficiency of God’s provision] by enjoying every moment with my husband, noting two things I like about my body every week, fasting from pinterest, blogs, and magazines, cutting my grocery bill in half, and giving generously. I will use a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.  

  1. Faith- (I) Memorize and meditate upon appropriate verses, (II) Pray every day that God would help me be content in every circumstance, (III) Pray for those less fortunate than myself, and (IV) Weekly meditate on the fact God owns everything.
  2. Marriage– (I) Enjoy him (cuddle time, hugs, etc.).
  3. Health- (I) Continue gratitude journal, and (II) Look in the mirror and note one thing I like about it 2X per week.
  4. Homemaking- (I) Avoid pinterest, blogs, magazines, etc. that will encourage me to compare myself to others, and (II) Freeze grocery spending ($140 for whole month) and use up pantry and freezer items this month.
  5. Interactions– (I) Give generously ($140 to those in need from normal grocery budget).

What are your goals for the month of December?