My overarching goal for July was to become more faithful [to be reliable, loyal, and honest] by spending time with God daily whether I felt like it or not, by taking captive every thought, exercising in some form daily, keeping up with household chores, and showing up on time to all meetings and appointments throughout the month. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.
- Faith- (I) Memorize and meditate upon 3 appropriate verses about faithfulness each week, (II) pray every day that God would help me to be faithful, (III) dwell on God’s faithfulness weekly, and (IV) read my Bible and pray every day, even when I don’t feel like it.
(I) During the first 11 days of the month of July I only practiced my verses on three days. It was a bit of a rough start. But then I sat down and came up with a “Quiet Time Schedule” which included practicing my verses, so I became much more consistent the rest of the month.
(II) I remembered to ask God to help me be faithful every day this past month.
(III) I can recall intentionally meditating upon God’s faithfulness twice this past month. The first time was at prayer meeting while singing the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and the second time was at a funeral while listening to that same hymn.
(IV) I did one or the other (read Bible/pray) every single day, but there were a few days this past month I missed out on doing both. The quiet time schedule I came up with was really helpful in keeping my time with the Lord focused and allowed it to be more profitable, too. In case you’re curious, here is the schedule I made:
Quiet Time Schedule
Memory Verses (2 min): Practice this week’s memory verses
Meditate on One Attribute of God (2 min)
Pray/Sing (5-10 min):
-Praise & Thanksgiving
-Confession of sins
-“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.”
Read Christian Testimony (3-5 min): Read short biography or martyr story
Pray for Missionaries/Persecuted Church (5 min)
Study One Chapter of Bible (15-20 min)
Listening Prayer (5 min): Sit in His presence and wait for Him to speak to you
Application Prayer (2-3 min): Ask God to help you apply what you’ve learned to your life
Supplication for Resolutions (5 min): Pray over your resolutions for your life
Intercession for John (5 min): Pray for your spouse
Intercession for Others’ Needs (10 min): Pray for people & needs as God brings them to mind
Dedication Prayer (2 min): Thank God & surrender your day to Him
2. Marriage– (I) Take captive every thought that doesn’t encourage marital faithfulness.
(I) This goal certainly made me more aware of my thought-life. God helped me direct my thoughts in such a way that they were pleasing to Him and honoring to my husband. I think it was quite fitting that faithfulness was my focus during my anniversary month. John and I celebrated 5 years on the 23rd. Our “theme” for our wedding was the faithfulness of God and now we can look back after 5 years of marriage and see God’s continued faithfulness in providing for us and keeping our marriage strong.
3. Health- (I) Do some form of exercise every single day.
(I) With the exception of Sundays (my day off from marathon training), I did indeed exercise every single day this past month. I counted all the miles I ran and it totaled over 150! Having my workouts planned out ahead of time really held me accountable this past month. There were definitely times when I didn’t feel like running for an hour, but I chose to silence the excuses and run anyway.
4. Homemaking- (I) Keep the home well-kept so John can rely upon it, even on top of other responsibilities (John’s top 4 main concerns: Clean laundry, Clean dishes, Clean toilets, Food to eat).
(I) July was a fairly busy month with several appointments, meetings, and interviews. Even so, I was able to stay on top of the housework pretty well. I’m grateful my husband appreciates simple meals and doesn’t mind leftovers. A couple times I left dirty dishes in the sink a little too long… and I could’ve made cleaning the toilet a bigger priority, but overall I was faithful with my house duties.
5. Interactions– (I) Keep commitments even if it hurts, (II) tell the truth even when tempted to tell a “little white lie”, and (III) show up on time to all meetings and appointments.
(I) At the beginning of the month I was planning on continuing to run with John’s younger sister, but I ended up dropping the ball due to my inconsistent schedule. That wasn’t a very good start to the month. I also had to change the time and date of a doctor’s appointment, but I did it weeks in advance, so I think I still maintained faithfulness in the situation. There was also one Tuesday when I asked somebody to cover for me last minute in my volunteer position at the pregnancy center so I could say yes to babysitting that night. I only left two hours earlier than I was scheduled to be there, but was I still being 100% faithful to my commitment?
(II) I only recall lying twice this past month. The first time, I lied to my doctor. I hadn’t been taking one of the medications he had prescribed for yeast, but I led him to believe I had been. I realized this isn’t the first time I’ve misled my doctor- no LIED TO my doctor (let’s call it what is really is). I’m thankful God opened my eyes to this and made me more sensitive to the temptation to tell lies the rest of the month.
The second lie was to my husband. I justified it at first because I hadn’t actually said anything to him… I was withholding information, which is deceptive and by very definition, lying. I failed to tell him right away about how I had rear-ended a car in my recent travels. I intended on telling him… eventually. I told myself I was “waiting for the right timing.” Well, his parents ended up pointing out the damage to John and he asked if I realized somebody had backed into me. Thankfully, I told him the whole truth right at that moment, but I felt ashamed for not telling him sooner. He made me promise I’d tell him about future incidents right away.
(III) I would have been on time to my interviews if it hadn’t been for mapquest… TWICE in one week mapquest led me astray. Thankfully I had left an extra half hour early for each interview, so I was a mere two minutes late for both. But, that still doesn’t look very good for a potential job candidate. I think I was on time to other meetings, but I could’ve done better about leaving earlier for work on a couple occasions. Leaving earlier definitely prevents me from having to rush (aka speed).
6. Books to Read- The books I hoped to read during the month of July were:
- Boundaries in Marriage (Cloud & Townsend)
I haven’t had a chance to pick this one up, yet.
- The Relationship Cure (John Gottman)
I started reading this book, but have not finished. Even though it’s clearly not written from a Christian perspective, it’s still been insightful and an enjoyable read.
- Flawed but Faithful Ebook (Pastor Joey Bauer)
I never even opened my Kindle during the month of July.
- The Normal Christian Life (Watchman Nee)
I started reading this book, but haven’t gotten far. Once again, I’ll put it on my “to-read” list for August.
- Ministering Cross-Culturally (Lingenfelter & Mayers)
I never even cracked the cover of this one.
- On Being a Servant (Warren Weirsbe)
This book was geared more toward full-time vocational pastors, but I still gleaned some good insights from it. It was short, not too deep, but challenging.
- No Grain, No Pain (Dr. Peter Osborne)
I really liked this book and continue to go back to it for reference. I learned that grains like rice, quinoa, and oatmeal can cause similar problems in gluten-sensitive individuals as wheat can. My dad has Celiac disease and has recently been having issues despite being on the typical “gluten-free” diet. I learned that regular, ground coffee can cause issues for people like him and that it’s best to use only organic whole bean coffee. Ever since he made the switch he’s been feeling MUCH better. I too had gastrointestinal issues this past month and when I realized my supplements could have added ingredients like “rice flour,” I purged them and my symptoms have almost completely cleared up. I definitely recommend this book if you think you might be sensitive to gluten.
WHAT I LEARNED THIS MONTH
Since being voted “most dependable” in 8th grade, I’ve had an inflated view of my dependability and faithfulness. But, as Chip Ingram says, “Past successes are no guarantee for future faithfulness.” I can’t depend upon a label given to me 14 years ago, believing it’s a guarantee I’ll continue to be faithful now that I’m 27 years old. Looking over my goals and the ways in which I fell short this past month has made me realize I don’t possess as much faithfulness as I thought, after all.
Faithfulness is time-consuming. It takes time to sit down and be quiet before God as I study His Word and pray. It takes time to workout every day… especially when you’re training for a marathon. It takes time to clean the house, make dinner, fold laundry, etc. There are no shortcuts. If I want to know Christ and become like Him and be faithful to Him, it requires me to prioritize spending time with Him, which may mean making sacrifices.
I had decided early on in my marathon training that I was going to keep God first by reading my Bible and praying BEFORE running every day. This has not been a convenient commitment to make, especially this past month. I prefer to run in the mornings because it’s still cool (and I like to get it out of the way as soon as possible). However, I had to leave my house by 8:20 am several weeks this past month in order to teach at Vacation Bible Schools. So, if I wanted to have my quiet time AND run before 8:20 am, I would have had to wake up by 5:30 am. One day of this schedule may not have been too bad, but if you have ever taught at a VBS you know how much it can drain you by day #3. I ruled out waking up at 5:30 am and instead, slept in an extra 1.5 hours and opted to do my marathon training later in the afternoons. This definitely made for some grueling workouts in 80 degree weather, but I don’t regret putting God first. How could I expect to feed God’s Word to children if I myself wasn’t getting filled up, first?
At the end of July I began studying the book of Jonah during my quiet times. I also began studying the story of Joseph as I prepared to teach it at VBS during the first week of August. I was struck by the contrast of Jonah and Joseph’s attitudes. Even though Jonah did obey God the second time God commanded him to go to Ninevah, his heart was clearly not right before God because the moment God relented from sending calamity upon the great city, Jonah became angry and threw a pity party. What’s more, he showed more compassion toward the plant that provided shade for him than he did toward 120,000 perishing souls. Joseph, on the other hand, endured great suffering without complaint. When his brothers showed up years after selling him into slavery, he repaid them with good by returning the money they’d used to buy grain. He didn’t withhold love or forgiveness from them and he had an eternal perspective on his circumstances. He could’ve just as easily gotten “payback” and treated his brothers with contempt, but he chose to show them kindness, instead. Joseph remained faithful to God, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Jonah, on the other hand, never displayed true faithfulness.
Sometimes I display a Jonah attitude more than a Joseph attitude. My loyalty to Christ can be so fickle sometimes! I have a few car troubles, experience a little joint pain, face a couple disappointments and all of a sudden I’m doubting God’s goodness. Why does it take such little things to shake my faith? Perhaps God was trying to test me during July.
This month didn’t go quite as I’d planned it would. I had expected to work quite a few hours this past month so my husband and I could get our savings up. But after returning from my two-week CYIA training, my boss didn’t schedule me any hours until the third week of July. At first I was upset, but then I tried to see the positive side to not working and took advantage of volunteer opportunities. I felt like God was telling me, “Be faithful in the little things.”
The first week I had free I ended up teaching two Bible lessons at a VBS and filled in one day for the client services manager at Carenet Pregnancy Center. Then, that weekend I was able to go camping with my parents, two younger sisters, and their children. It was a really special time. On another weekend I was able to visit my friend overnight in Rutland after attending a meeting. Since I had so much free time on my hands, I also decided to bless my sister by cleaning her house and folding her mounds of laundry while she brought her kids to a doctors appointment. In addition to this, I was also able to say yes to teaching the Bible stories at second week-long VBS due to my open schedule. So, all-in-all it ended up being a far better month than I had anticipated. I learned that God will use me if I am just available and willing… if I’m faithful.
In addition to job troubles, I experienced some car troubles, too. First, I rear-ended a car (as I explained earlier in my goal updates), which led to overheating issues. (It literally took me over an hour longer to get home from a VBS one afternoon because my car kept overheating and I kept pulling over to let it cool down). After John’s dad graciously replaced our radiator, we didn’t have overheating problems anymore, but our wheel-bearing needed to be replaced. After picking up my car from the garage and using it ONE day, the very next day it wouldn’t start. It’s frustrating for sure, but I know that even in all this, God has a plan and purpose. God seems to be asking, “Will you love Me even if you continually face hardship after hardship? Will you remain faithful to me?“ It’s easy to say a definitive “YES!” when the sun is shining and you’re sailing smoothly through life. But when trials come my prayer is often closer to a whispered, “Lord, I want to love You and I want to remain faithful. Please help me…”
Perhaps one reason so few people exhibit faithfulness is because it often goes unnoticed and is underappreciated. Most the time nobody notices if you show up on time, never miss an appointment, or do what you’re supposed to do day in and day out. Usually it’s the off day they take note of: forgetting a meeting or showing up for work 10 minutes late. Where’s the incentive for being dependable? Thankfully, for the Christian we DO have incentive. One day we will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…“ I don’t know about you, but I long to hear those words from my Savior. The key is keeping our eyes on eternity, and not remaining fixated on the fleeting tasks of the here and now.