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.).

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(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.

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(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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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!'”
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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!

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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.

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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?

 

Update on October’s Goals & What I Learned

October’s Focus = KNOWLEDGE

My goal for October was to become more knowledgeable [to gain a greater understanding of God and the world He has created in order to make wise decisions that please Him]. I did this by asking God to grow me in the grace and knowledge of Him daily, reviewing all the verses I’d memorized in the past year, reading several books, listening to podcasts weekly, and asking personal questions to acquaintances in order to get to know them better. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

1. Faith- (I) Pray daily that God would increase my knowledge of Him and His Word, as well as the world around me, (II) Daily review the verses I’ve memorized over the past year, (III) Read at least two faith-based non-fiction books, (IV) Listen to at least two sermon podcasts per week, (V) Meditate on at least one attribute of God daily, (VI) and Daily spend time sitting silently in God’s presence, listening to Him.

(I) I did make this my daily prayer, and was especially mindful to ask God to open my eyes to His Word every time I read it.

(II) Unfortunately, I was not as diligent about this goal as I would have liked to be. Some days I didn’t review a single verse. Other days I went through a pile of verses. I should have been far more intentional about this, but I prioritized other things, instead.

(III) I didn’t read nearly as many books as I wanted to this month, either. I did finish Jesus Freaks Vol. II by D.C. Talk. This wasn’t an easy book to read- I had to go through it slowly and prayerfully. It was good to be reminded of my brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering. One quote I wrote down was:

“Without His life flowing through us, we bear no better fruit than those who despise His name.”

(IV) I enjoyed listening to different sermon podcasts throughout the month. I started a series by Chip Ingram called “Uncovering Counterfeit Christianity” and enjoyed it so much I ended up repeating a couple of the podcasts. I also listened to a sermon by John Piper called, Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord which I found insightful, as well as a “Java with Julie” podcast titled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Listening to podcasts such as these are so profitable for the soul.

(V) There were 11 days when I failed to meditate on an attribute of God this month. Some days I spent more time than others thinking about God’s character, but I always tried to look up at least one verse pertaining to each attribute. Below is the sheet I made and used throughout the month.

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(VI) What a privilege to be able to approach the throne of God and silently listen and wait at His feet. I don’t do it enough. I didn’t even do it enough this past month despite my goal to make it a daily habit. I’m ashamed to admit that I only followed through with this on 10 different occasions throughout the month of October. Why is listening prayer so difficult? I found myself praying on more than one occasion, “Lord, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is SO weak… help!”

2. Marriage– (I) Read and complete The Love Dare, (II) Read at least one additional Christian book on the topic of marriage, and (III) Ask John at least one question about himself per day (make a list ahead of time).

(I) Since this book was a 40 day challenge, I am still in the process of completing it. I did not complete the Love Dare challenge every single day of the month, but it was still an admirable goal. Some of the challenges didn’t seem very applicable to our marriage, while other days I simply didn’t carve out the time to make the challenge a priority.

Ironically, I failed miserably on the very first day. The challenge was to withhold all negative comments toward your spouse. I remember setting the book down and thinking, “Oh, that will be easy.” Ha! That afternoon we had a date. All through lunch and bookstore browsing things were great, but then my attitude began to sour after searching in two different stores for stevia-sweetened chocolate to no avail. I had gotten my hopes up that I’d be able to enjoy this treat for dessert, but was then sorely disappointed. Unfortunately, I let my frustration out on John during the second half of our date. He was innocently walking ahead of me (rather than next to me) and I blurted out, “You’re a miserable date!” As soon as I said it I could see the flicker of hurt in his eyes and was immediately sorry. I was then convicted that it was me who was being the miserable date. Thankfully my husband was a good sport and was able to get some laughs out of me and our date ended on a good note.

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My favorite was day of the love dare challenge was day number 18: “Desire to know this person even better than you do now.” It was quite fitting, given my focus for the month.

I found that simply deciding to make my marriage a priority impacted my marriage for the better. I found myself serving him through simple tasks, even when I could have been doing other things. And I think those acts of service were reciprocated by John through his exceptionally loving words this month.

(II) Unfortunately I never got around to reading a second book on marriage. However, I’ve read 12 new books on marriage this year, so I’m not too upset at myself for slacking on this goal.

(III) This was probably the most enjoyable goal of the month. After five years of marriage, I’m amazed how much there is yet to learn about my husband. Some of the questions I asked him are questions I’d asked years ago but forgot the answers to, such as: “how many broken bones have you had?” and “what was your fastest time competing in cross country?” I also asked questions about his childhood, like “What were your favorite movies growing up?” and “What were your favorite games to play as a child?” Additional questions focused on personal preferences which have likely changed over the years, such as his favorite kind of salad dressing or whether he prefers to sleep with or without socks on at night.

3. Health- (I) Read at least two books about health and wellness and (II) Listen to at least one health podcast per week.

(I) I only finished one book on the topic of health and wellness this month:  Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. It’s a very thick book and it taught me a lot, however. Now that I’m tracking my fertility signs, I shouldn’t need to waste money on negative pregnancy tests ever again.

(II) I only listened to two health podcasts total throughout the entire month of October. The first was about healthy foods on the Janet Parshall show and the second was from Steve Carmichael’s RunBuzz podcast titled, How to Build Mental Toughness Part III. The latter was really helpful in my marathon prep. Up to that point I hadn’t really trained in bad weather, but I realized this was an important aspect of my training since I wouldn’t know until the day of the race what adverse conditions I’d have to face. So, a few days later I forced myself to go out in the freezing cold rain and ran for an hour and 40 minutes. (You can read more about this experience below in the “What I learned” section).

4. Homemaking- (I) Read at least one book on the topic of homemaking this month and (II) Read at least one article or blogpost about homemaking per week.

(I) I read two books about cleaning during the month of October. I didn’t learn anything revolutionary, but there were some helpful tips that I can use not only at home, but in my workplace, too.

(II) I never did get around to reading any blogposts this past month, though I may have read an article from a magazine that relates to homemaking- if I did, however, I don’t recall what it was.

5. Interactions– (I) Read at least one book about connecting/interacting with others and (II) Get together with a friend at least once a week and ask meaningful and personal questions to get to know them on a deeper level.

(I) I started reading the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, but I didn’t get very far into it. I’ll have to finish it in November.

(II) This final goal helped me cultivate meaningful conversations this past month. It’s so easy to get into the rut of “small talk,” but during October I tried to be intentional about getting to know my acquaintances and friends better. To help with this undertaking, I compiled a list of conversation starters ahead of time:

  • What vacation do you dream about taking some day?
  • What fun activity do you dream about doing?
  • What place do you dream about seeing?
  • If I could meet only one of your needs, which would you like me to meet?
  • What do I do that makes you feel adored?
  • What is your favorite activity we do together?
  • If we had an extra $10,000 what would you want to do with it?
  • In what areas of your life are you struggling right now?
  • How can I pray for you?
  • Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?
  • If you were to be famous, what would you want to be famous for?
  • What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  • If you were to live to 90 and retain either the mind or the body of a 30-year-old the final 60 years of your life, which would you choose?
  • If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  • If you could wake up tomorrow and have gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  • What would you consider to be the biggest accomplishment of your life so far? Why?
  • What is your most terrible memory?
  • If you knew you had one year to live, would you change anything about the way you’re currently living? If so, what?
  • What do you value most in a friendship?
  • When was the last time you cried?
  • What was your greatest challenge this past week?
  • Name something you’ve never done but would like to try.
  • If you could only spend $10 on a date, what would you do?
  • What is the perfect sandwich?
  • What is your least favorite chore?
  • What’s the best advice you ever received?
  • If you were to die in an hour, what would your last meal be?
  • What was great about today?
  • If you could go back and relive one day of your life, what day would it be? Would you change anything about that day?
  • If you could only keep two things out of everything you own, what would they be?
  • If you could trade places with anyone, who would it be?
  • What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
  • Who inspires you most and why?
  • What is the one song you could listen to non-stop?
  • If you got an extra hour a day, what would you do with it?
  • What did you admire about the way your parents treated each other?
  • If you could press a button and change one thing about our marriage, what would it be?
  • When did you first realize you loved me and wanted to marry me?
  • How has our marriage been different than you originally thought it’d be?
  • What has been your favorite passage of Scripture lately?
  • What things discourage or depress you?
  • What books are at the top of your “want to read” list?
  • What’s one thing your parents taught you that you are grateful for now?
  • How do you feel you’ve changed since we first got married?
  • If you could’ve picked your own name, what would it have been?
  • What character in a book/movie best depicts who you are?
  • If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?
  • What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

 

WHAT I LEARNED

Not only was it wet and cold, but I was also experiencing pelvic pain that I had to push through during my 9.5 mile run on October 28th. I remember it like it was yesterday because it was the worst marathon training day I experienced in four months. Only 15 minutes into the run I was already soaked to the bone and my hands were so cold they were beginning to go numb. Every time I landed on my right leg I experienced a sharp, stabbing pain in my pelvis that protruded half-way down my thigh. Every part of me wanted to turn around and “call it a day,” but I couldn’t quit. I knew the adversity would only serve to make me stronger as I counted the days leading up to the marathon.

Remembering the podcast I’d listened to just days earlier, I used positive self-talk to encourage myself to keep-on-keeping-on despite how I was feeling. At the four mile mark I told myself, “Wow, you’ve already gone four miles! Piece of cake! Keep it up!” and when I wanted to slow down I’d remind myself, The faster you go, the sooner you’ll get home and the sooner you can jump into the shower. Come on, you can do it!” 

On this same run I also pushed my boundaries. My training schedule required me to run for 30 minutes at an easy pace, then for 15 at a hard pace and then to repeat the cycle. Since I had run this same route dozens of times, I knew about how far I could realistically run in 15 minutes, but this time, I set my sights to run farther than usual in the same amount of time. See that mailbox up ahead? You’re not going to look at the time until you reach it. Sometimes I’d set an additional boundary line for myself upon reaching the first and discover I still had enough energy left to continue on.

The third tactic I used from the RunBuzz podcast was “Distract yourself from the hard situation.” When the pain was too much to bear or I felt like giving up and walking, I would try to distract my mind by praying for whoever God brought to my mind or by thinking about what I was going to do later that day or by taking in the scenery around me. And it worked! I endured the difficult run and came out stronger in the end.

So what does all that have to do with knowledge or wisdom? Well, as I studied and meditated on the Book of Proverbs throughout October I saw a few common themes:

#1: Listening to Wisdom Involves Acting on What You Know

#2: Walking in Wisdom Provides Great Benefits

#3: Knowing God = Wisdom

#1: Listening to Wisdom Involves Acting on What You Know

“…keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul…” Proverbs 3:21

Bind them continually on your heart…” Proverbs 6:21a

Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” Proverbs 19:20

“Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” Proverbs 19:27

Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 23:19

I’ll start with this first theme I picked up from the Book of Proverbs. Referring back to my marathon training, I realized I would’ve fallen into the “foolish” category if I were to have listened to the RunBuzz podcast yet not done anything about it. Unfortunately, many of us do this very thing every single day. We’re like the women the Apostle Paul refers to in the Bible, “always learning but never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (see 2 Timothy 3:7). Or like the man the Apostle James talks about who looks into a mirror and immediately forgets what he looks like (see James 1:24). I know that within their contexts both authors are alluding to spiritual knowledge, but I think it is also applicable to any area of life in which we acquire knowledge but don’t allow it to impact how we live.

When you hear about a helpful and new cooking technique but never implement it, did you grow in your knowledge of cooking when you heard about the technique? Some may argue yes, but I would counter by saying you’d be foolish to continue cooking the same way as before if the technique you’d heard about could improve your cooking skills.

egg

The same can be said about your health habits, finances, duties at work, parenting skills, etc. We read blog-posts, articles, and books, receive tips and pointers from co-workers or friends, listen to the radio or news channel and are overloaded with information almost daily. Yet, how often do we change a habit after obtaining new knowledge?

All this to say, I believe it is imperative for us to act on what we already know if we desire to be wise. This is why I decided early on during the month of October to implement the things I already knew rather than striving to fill my mind with additional knowledge that probably would never impact my life.

So, when God continually convicted me about a sin I had committed against a fellow believer back in June, I finally sat down and wrote this individual a letter of apology, asking for their forgiveness. I had confessed the sin to God months ago, but clearly the Holy Spirit had wanted me to come clean before this individual, as well. I had learned as a child the importance of confessing and forsaking sin, as well as asking anyone you’d wronged to forgive you, yet it took me months in this particular situation to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

letter

On another occasion this past month I had to make a very difficult decision regarding my health and the future health of my unborn child. I’d been praying fervently for wisdom as to whether I should go back on antibiotics during pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing Lyme on to my unborn child, or to be medication-free throughout the duration of my first pregnancy. (No, I’m not pregnant yet, but we are praying I will be soon!)

After having a preconception appointment with a midwife, I realized God had made the answer to my dilemma very clear in the Book of Proverbs. Over and over I found that those who are wise listen to counsel. And all the doctors I had talked to and researched said being on amoxicillin during pregnancy is not only safe, but also encouraged for individuals such as myself. I’ve been kicking and screaming about it inwardly because selfishly, I don’t want to go back on medication, but I prayed for wisdom and God has made it known to me, so now all I need to do is walk in obedience. Once I do, I know that God will be true to His Word and bless me. Which leads to the second theme I found  throughout Proverbs:

 

#2: Walking in Wisdom Provides Great Benefits

“[Wise words]… are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” Proverbs 4:22

“Blessed is the man who listens to [wisdom]…” Proverbs 8:34a

“…he who [reverently] fears and respects the commandment [of God] is rewarded.” Proverbs 13:13b

“…he who keeps understanding shall prosper and find good.” Proverbs 19:8b

The second theme, Walking in Wisdom Provides Great Benefits, is pretty self-evident. It’s probably most clearly seen when observing various groups of teenagers. Those who wisely avoid alcohol, drugs, promiscuous behaviors, etc. don’t have to deal with the consequences of such bad choices and thus, things often go smoother for them. Wisdom leads to good choices and helps one navigate away from harmful decisions.

I experienced blessing when I was obedient to the Holy Spirit and asked the individual I had wronged for forgiveness. I had sent the letter in the mail but I had to face this individual about a week later. I was nervous and even dreaded seeing them for fear of what they probably thought of me now that they knew what I’d done. But this person extended grace and kindness and even gave me a card in return, complimenting me rather than tearing me down! We often listen to the lies of the enemy, which prevents us from walking in wisdom and doing what is right, but if we’d just listen to the Holy Spirit instead, we’d save ourselves so much heartache. I’m so thankful I finally acted on what I knew I should do- God has truly blessed me through it.

 

#3: Knowing God = Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 1:7a

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

“The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord brings instruction in Wisdom…” Proverbs 15:33a

“…those who seek the Lord understand all things.” Proverbs 28:5b

 

Finally, the last theme I picked up on from the Book of Proverbs was, Knowing God = Wisdom. I believe you cannot be wise unless you walk close with God. Sure, you can be intelligent and maybe even make good decisions, but in order for you to be truly wise, you must know and love the One who created you. Wisdom comes from the Lord and as several verses emphasize, fearing Him is the beginning of wisdom.

As I mentioned above, one of the podcasts I listened to this past month was Java with Julie. The host, Julie Slatterly, spoke with Joanna Weaver and Linda Dillow about the precious intimacy they’ve discovered and experienced with the Lord. For many years they approached their quiet times as either an intellectual exercise or to-do list task to check off rather than simply having no other agenda apart from spending time with Jesus.

It was no coincidence that I “stumbled” upon this podcast. I too struggle with laying aside my expectations and agendas in order to simply connect with my Lord. I have faithfully read and studied my Bible for over 10 years, yet when it comes to communicating with God, I feel like I hit a brick wall nearly every time.

biblereading

I’m ashamed to even admit this, but I have the attitude of, “Well, I’ve spent 30+ minutes reading my Bible and I’ve got other things I need to get done…” Then I say a quick prayer and get on with my day. But is this really pleasing to God? Especially when I skip over the essentially step of asking God what He wants me to do in light of what I’ve just studied? I think not. I’ve merely been getting puffed up with knowledge and deceiving myself in the matter of spiritual growth. 

Proverbs 12:8 says, “A man shall be commended according to his Wisdom…” (NASB). The Amplified Version translates “Wisdom” in this verse as, “comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God.” This is not something you learn intellectually. It’s experiential knowledge that is gained through many years of faithfully walking with the Lord.

 

Did you do better than I did with your goals in October? What did you learn this past month?

My Goals for November

November’s Focus = Gratefulness

My goal for November is 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 am grateful for in a gratitude journal, praying for those less fortunate than myself daily, and voicing my appreciation daily. I will use 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.
  2. Marriage– (I) Voice my appreciation to John daily, and (II) create a “30 ways I’m grateful for you” project.
  3. Health- (I) Create artwork that highlights what I’m most grateful for every day.
  4. Homemaking- (I) Thank God for each chore as I do it.
  5. Interactions– (I) Voice my thanks at every opportunity, and (II) Write a personal thank you note weekly.

What are your goals for the month of November?

September Goal Update

My overarching goal for September was to become more self-controlled [to use self-constraint in the midst of temptation] by giving up one meal a week to pray, sticking to a strict budget in order to save for a romantic outing with John, only watching entertainment from Friday through Sundays, breaking the habit of chewing my nails, avoiding technology until housework was done daily, and avoiding all negative comments. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

  1. Faith- (I) Pray every day that God would increase my self-control, (II) Memorize and meditate upon an entire Book of the Bible this month and (III) Give up one meal per week to pray.

(I) Praying for an increase of self-control kept me reliant upon the Lord, knowing I couldn’t avoid temptation without being empowered by the Holy Spirit.

(II) Wow was this hard! I’d heard of other people memorizing whole Books of the Bible in short periods of time, but they never let on how difficult it can be!

I decided to memorize 2 Timothy, not because it’s a favorite Book of mine or because I’ve always had a hankering to, but because there were four chapters (1 per week) and the content seemed practical and profitable enough to commit to memory. Once I chose the Book, I sat down with a Bible and a calendar and planned out all the verses I was to memorize on each day of the month. There were days when I slacked off and failed to memorize the verses I had planned, but thankfully I pressed on and caught up.

2timothy

I was definitely more diligent at the beginning of the month about memorizing than toward the end. I always began my day by writing out the days’ verses on index cards, but some days I’d practice them aloud multiple times a day, reciting them while brushing my teeth, while driving in the car, while in the shower, and right before bed. Other days I’d merely go over the verses once. But on these latter days, I’d have to spend extra time reviewing these same verses on the very next day.

I told my husband on more than one occasion, “This is hard!” But you know what I found? When I was being super diligent about hiding 2 Timothy in my heart, I didn’t have time to think about lesser things. My mind was filled with God’s Word; my thoughts consumed with Paul’s letter to Timothy.

If you desire to memorize more Scripture, here is a good rule of thumb:

  1. Read the verse out loud 3X.
  2. Write out the verse 3X.
  3. Read the verse out loud from what you wrote down 3X.
  4. Say the verses 3X out loud from memory.

(III) I wish I could say I did better with this goal. I did give up one meal a week, but I only dedicated one lunch period to prayer out of the four. Pathetic, I know. Fasting is new to me. Before now, I only remember having fasted once, while in college. I’ve been sick for 7 out of the 11 years I’ve been a Christian, so I always kind of used that as an excuse. I can’t skip a meal, since I can’t take my medication on an empty stomach. Or If I skip a meal, I’ll lose even more weight… I definitely can’t afford to risk it. While these may have been legitimate excuses, they were none-the-less excuses.

Jesus did not speak of fasting as though it were optional. He said, “When you fast…,” not “if” you fast. And he gave no qualifiers for who should fast. But clearly the whole point of fasting was for the purpose of seeking God in prayer. Clearly I missed the mark this past month. Skipping a meal doesn’t count as fasting unless you spend that mealtime praying. While I may have tried to be more mindful of and communicate with God while accomplishing other tasks, He was not my sole focus and thus, I wasn’t practicing true, Biblical fasting.

2. Marriage– (I) Stick to a strict budget and save for a romantic outing to enjoy at the end of the month and (II) Only watch t.v. or movies from Friday-Sunday (find other more meaningful and interactive activities to do together, instead).

(I) I budgeted and spent $25 less on groceries this past month than in previous months. John was impressed with me since I usually spend more on groceries than the budgeted amount… without fail. But because of my self-control in this area, we were able to “splurge” a little on a $53 lunch and corn maze date (usually we only spend $25-$30 on a monthly date)!

(II) I think there were only a handful of weekdays this past month in which I didn’t watch something, with or without John. It’s a bit disconcerting. Even one 40 minute t.v. show 5 days a week adds up to 3.5 hours of wasted time in a given week, 14 hours in a month, or 168 hours in an entire year (or 7 whole days!). I think I’ve heard a statistic that stated the average child watches 4 or more hours of television A DAY. If somebody watches four hours a day, 5 days every week, that translates to 40 twenty-four-hour days a year spent watching television! Surely we can be better stewards of our time than this!

This project revealed to me just how addicting entertainment can be, as well as how easy it is to justify it. At the beginning of the month I’d tell myself, “It’s okay to watch something as long as I’m doing something productive at the same time… like strength training or washing dishes or cooking.” It was also difficult to convince my hard-working husband to do some other activity with me instead of watching an episode from Netflix, since by the time he gets home at night he’s literally been gone for an average of 12 hours and is exhausted. I can’t blame him… sometimes all you feel like doing is vegging on the couch, unable to think clearly enough to read or play a game.

Yet, I would like to continue to make an increased effort to watch less on netflix and redbox. One day (hopefully soon) we desire to have children and our entertainment habits are inevitably going to affect them. The sooner we develop greater self-control in this area, the better.

3. Health- (I) Stop chewing nails, (II) Be strict with medical diet and (III) Don’t slack off with marathon training.

(I) I DID IT!! The first week and a half were the most difficult in my endeavor to break my bad habit of chewing my nails. However, I found that keeping them painted daily with clear nail polish prevented me from giving in to the temptation. After the initial couple weeks of being aware of my triggers and letting some white show on the tips of my fingernails, it was far easier to avoid chewing them from then on.

fingernails

Interestingly, I discovered my husband has the very same triggers as I do: sitting and listening to a sermon on Sunday mornings, while watching a t.v. show, while driving in the car, or before the start of a prayer meeting. There were times he would start chewing his nails and I would put a fingernail to my mouth about to chomp down when I realized what I was about to do, and quickly dropped my fingers into my lap.

Below is the plan I outlined and followed throughout September in order to break free from my bad habit:

Identify Your Triggers:

  1. Sitting and Listening to or waiting for someone/something (Prayer meeting, car, doctor’s office).
  2. Seeing John Chew his nails.
  3. When Nervous.
  4. When I see white on the ends of my nails.

Practical Solutions to Triggers:

  1. Hold hands together when sitting and listening. Paint nails DAILY.
  2. Tell John to stop chewing his nails. Grab some gum. Paint nails, instead.
  3. Chew gum, instead. Keep nails painted DAILY. Tell John and others to tell me to stop when they see me chewing.
  4. Keep them painted. When I see white, think to myself, “Look, they’re growing! I’m making progress!” instead of chewing.

(II) I did okay with staying away from foods I’m not supposed to eat (simple carbs, sugar, corn and potatoes, chips, beans, etc.). I have had to stick to a strict gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and recently grain-free diet for the past 5 years. Avoiding processed, sugary “foods” is easy for me, now. My struggle lies with passing up the occasional bag of potato chips or that third piece of fruit.

fruit

Having been on antibiotics for over 5 years straight, I had become suspicious that maybe I was having issues with candida. Thus, this past month I tried to cut out as much fruit from my diet as possible, along with grains and beans. I was able to avoid all fruit for 8 days straight (a personal record!), but it was not without complaint or temptation. My poor husband had to hear the brunt of my complaints as my cravings for fruit were relentless the first several days. When I happily announced, “It’s been 6 whole days since I last ate fruit,” he responded with, “Really? It seems like it’s been longer than that.” Clearly my complaining had made him weary.

(III) I logged almost 30 more running miles this past month than in the month of August. I also completed my longest run, yet: 20 miles in 3 hours, 3 minutes, and 46 seconds. My third month of marathon training started off really well and was enjoyable, but by the end of the month I was feeling much like I had after my first month of training: strained and fatigued.

running

My long runs this month consisted of 16 miles (3 different weeks), 20 miles, and 17.8 miles. But it wasn’t these that hampered me. Every week I do a hill workout and a fartlek workout in addition to my long runs. It’s the latter workouts I most dread. As an example for those of you who are not familiar with fartlek training, here was one such workout:

2 mi E + 4 x (10 min T + 2 min rest) + 2 mi E

To translate, this is what the formula means:

Run 2 miles at an easy pace (E); Run 10 minutes at a hard pace (T), then rest 2 minutes; Repeat 10 minutes T pace and 2 minute rest 3 more times; finish with an easy 2 miles.

Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Give me a long run at an easy pace any day over a fartlek workout. Despite this, I was bound and determined not to slack off, even on these more trying training days. Thankfully MOST weeks I only have one fartlek workout. And there’s only 1 month remaining in my training!

4. Homemaking- (I) Avoid technology until household tasks are finished daily.

(I) I did fairly well with this… most of the time. Sometimes I would use technology while doing housework. But I did find that on the days I logged into facebook before doing dishes or sweeping or laundry, I was far less productive overall than I would have been if I had completed my to-do list, first.

Social media has a way of sucking up your time and leaving you with regrets at the end of the day. This is precisely why I set this goal for myself. There ended up being just a handful of days in which I put technology before my housework. I definitely plan on continuing the habit of avoiding technology until I’ve crossed off several items from my to-do list each day.

5. Interactions– (I) Refrain from all negative comments, (II) Avoid gossip and (III) Refrain from judging others.

(I) I think a lot of my negativity this past month came in the form of complaining, as mentioned earlier. But there were other comments directed toward others that God convicted me of, too. Thankfully, God helped me keep my mouth shut on other occasions rather than making pessimistic comments. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Since I am known for being quiet, talking a lot is not one of my vices. However, if the few words I do utter are negative, how can Christ be displayed in my life? For it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (see Matthew 12:34b). 

(II) Thankfully, God gave me the wisdom to avoid gossip years ago when I was still in high school. I was saved when I was 16 and received a heightened awareness of how words can cause great harm to people. After all, it only took 4 painful words to turn my own world upside down when I was merely 11 years old.

So this past month whenever individuals around me began to gossip, I would tune out or quickly change the subject. One time while walking with friends I purposely quickened my pace a bit to be excused from the conversation.

(III) Though my chart displays that I didn’t struggle with judging others at all this past month, it’s misleading. After all, even if I have one fleeting judgmental thought, isn’t that still considered “judging someone”? If I were to grade myself according to that standard, I’m not sure there would have been even one day through out the month of September that I didn’t have a judgmental thought. It’s a sobering reality.

I hate this about myself, and as quickly as the thoughts appear I confess and forsake them, but it doesn’t change the fact that those thoughts entered my mind in the first place. Matthew 7:1 clearly commands, “Do not judge, lest you be judged.” These are Jesus’ words. He goes on to tell the crowd to first take the log out of their own eyes before attempting to remove the speck from their brother’s eye. John Piper says,

“Now compared to a log, this person’s behavior is a speck. Or even if it is a log, I’ve got my own log. I can’t go to him with a log hanging out of my eye because the log will hit him on the head and do more damage than if I took my log out first.”

But the Apostle Paul made it clear, “Who are we to judge those who are outside? It is those in the church that we are to judge” (1 Corinthians 5:12). So in regard to unbelievers, I am to present the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to convict of sin. To judge them is to foolishly forget how utterly sinful I once was, too, before Christ rescued me.

I think a lot of my judgmental thoughts spring from wrong assumptions about an individuals’ actions. One afternoon while pushing my nephews in a stroller, a car made a very fast, sharp turn while we were nearing the corner. As the car drove by- I am ashamed to admit it- I cast a glare toward the driver.

Later, on that same walk we witnessed another driver slow down at the bottom of a hill and rev his engine before completing his ascent. My sister voiced what was on all of our minds- that he was trying to impress with his noisy antics, but then I surprised myself by saying, “Maybe his car is having trouble getting up the hill… it looks like an older car, after all.” She then answered, “That’s true. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.”

In that moment I felt a slight victory over my judgmentalism. It was very short-lived, however, because the Holy Spirit quickly reminded me of how I had responded toward the previous car we had encountered on our walk. I failed to mention it earlier, but that particular driver so happened to be an elderly man. Why couldn’t I have extended him the same grace I did to the man whose car struggled to reach the top of the hill?

 

WHAT I LEARNED

If you’ve already read the update to my goals above, you are well aware of many of the lessons God taught me, already. I think the month of September is by far the most difficult month I’ve experienced, yet. Self-control is difficult!

Self-control is needed in all facets of life. I found that spiritual discipline is quite similar to physical discipline. I suppose I’m not the first to discover this, as the Apostle Paul penned these words 2000 years ago:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Marathon training is difficult, not always fun, requires hard work and much practice. Yet, the training prepares you for the race and increases your endurance. Without the practice, the race would either be excruciatingly painful and/or impossible to complete. In the same way, spiritual disciplines like memorizing God’s Word, fasting, or spending time praying each day can be arduous, not always enjoyable, and require a great deal of endurance. Still, if we were to neglect these disciplines we would not grow in our faith and the smallest of trials would greatly discourage and hinder us in our walk with the Lord. 

While running 200+ miles during the month of September I listened to the audio book, Teach Us to Want.  At one point the author talked about temptation for fleshly desires. She encouraged her audience to “disobey yourself.” This is a concept that immediately peeked my interest and got my wheels spinning. Though I have been crucified with Christ and am a new creature, my old nature still likes to rear its ugly head now and again. There are still times when my desires don’t line up with Christ’s. It is in these moments that I am to disobey myself; to not give in. 

Interestingly, self-control is mentioned twice in the book of 2 Timothy. The first time Paul tells Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of self-control” (1:7). This is Paul’s reasoning for Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God that was within him. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to love, who gives us power, and who enables us to be self-controlled. Other versions translate “self-controlled” as “disciplined” or “well-balanced mind”. Strong’s concordance defines the Greek word sophronismos as “self-discipline, with an implication that this discipline demonstrates prudence and wisdom.” It is a calling to soundness of mind.

As I memorized the book of 2 Timothy this past month, many times I would face a situation and immediately a relevant verse I had been committing to memory would pop into my mind. I think this is why Christian meditation is so different and so much more powerful than Eastern meditation. As Christians we are to FILL our minds with God’s Word, while worldly meditation instructs you to empty your mind. When you empty your mind, you’re just opening yourself up to lies and deception from the enemy. When you fill your mind with the Truth of God’s Word, you are equipping yourself with weapons against the attacks of the enemy and guarding your heart and mind from lies and deceit.

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Jesus Himself used Scripture to overcome temptation in the wilderness. Without God’s Word, we really have no power over temptation. The mind is so powerful. Thus, what we put into our minds and what we dwell on is crucial.

“Self-control is… the external expression of our relationship with God. Holy restraint is the seed of this fruit. It’s the internal experience of living with Christ and really applying His Truths to my life.” -Lisa Terkeurst

The second time self-control is mentioned in 2 Timothy is in chapter 3: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be…without self-control” (v. 1-3). The Greek word rendered “self-control” in this passage is enkrateia, from the root kratos, which means strength. The same word is used in Acts 24:25 following the word “righteous,” which one commentator interprets as self-control being man’s response to God declaring him to be righteous. For the unbeliever, however, it is impossible to be self-controlled. They do not have the power of God, the Truth of God’s Word, or the desire to please God. Thus, addictions are an epidemic in our world and the Apostle’s warning is being played out before our very eyes.

addictions

But even as a follower of Jesus, avoiding fruit, memorizing the entire book of 2 Timothy, limiting my entertainment, and breaking the habit of chewing my nails was far from a walk in the park. I found myself praying over and over, “God, help me. Don’t let me give in/give up.” I honestly would not have been able to accomplish even one of these goals without Jesus’ strength and empowerment. Sheer will power wouldn’t have even gotten me through one single day! More than once I found myself telling God, “My spirit is willing, but my flesh is so weak, Lord. Help!”

I think that’s the beauty of walking with Christ. The more I know Him, the more I see my weakness, and the more I depend upon Him to help me.

 

What are your thoughts on self-control?

 

October’s Goals

October’s Focus = KNOWLEDGE

My goal for October is to become more knowledgeable [to gain a greater understanding of God and the world He has created in order to make wise decisions that please Him]. I will do this by asking God to grow me in the grace and knowledge of Him daily, reviewing all the verses I’ve memorized in the past year, reading at least 8 books this month, listening to podcasts weekly, and asking personal questions to acquaintances in order to get to know them better. I will use a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

  1. Faith- (I) Pray daily that God would increase my knowledge of Him and His Word, as well as the world around me, (II) Daily review the verses I’ve memorized over the past year, (III) Read at least two faith-based non-fiction books, (IV) Listen to at least two sermon podcasts per week, (V) Meditate on at least one attribute of God daily, (VI) and Daily spend time sitting silently in God’s presence, listening to Him.
  2. Marriage– (I) Read and complete The Love Dare, (II) Read at least one additional Christian book on the topic of marriage, and (III) Ask John at least one question about himself per day (make a list ahead of time).
  3. Health- (I) Read at least two books about health and wellness and (II) Listen to at least one health podcast per week.
  4. Homemaking- (I) Read at least one book on the topic of homemaking this month and (II) Read at least one article or blogpost about homemaking per week.
  5. Interactions– (I) Read at least one book about connecting/interacting with others and (II) Get together with a friend at least once a week and ask meaningful and personal questions to get to know them on a deeper level.

 

What are your goals for the month of October?

Growing in Gentleness (an Update on August’s Goals & What I Learned)

My overarching goal for August was to become a gentler person [to show restraint coupled with strength and courage] by serving those whom the world deems “below” me, bearing offenses without complaint, allowing John to lead, and by daily stretching my muscles. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

  1. Faith- (I) Memorize and meditate upon 3 appropriate verses about gentleness each week, (II) pray every day that God would increase my gentleness, (III) meditate on God’s gentleness weekly.

(I) Though I continued the pattern of choosing three verses specifically about gentleness, writing them on index cards weekly, and reciting them at least a couple times per day, if you asked me to recite them from memory, I honestly don’t think I’d be able to. I definitely became slack in this area throughout the month of August.

(II) Despite dropping the ball a bit with my memory verses this past month, I was sure to pray and ask God daily for an increase of gentleness. After all, I cannot forget that it is a fruit of the Spirit; not something I can merely drum up and produce on my own.

(III) I may have done this once or twice, but I definitely wasn’t intentional about it like I should have been.

2. Marriage– (I) Overlook minor offenses and (II) allow John to lead in our marriage (by not questioning or micromanaging him, not telling him how to drive, etc.)

(I) The first week of August John and I didn’t have any conflicts that I needed to overlook. But then God tested me one Sunday morning. Usually John leaves for church at least an hour before I do because he is in charge of the technology and likes to play drums during music practice. But on this particular Sunday we had special guests who were going to lead the congregation in singing and John didn’t need to go early. Since we live right around the block from our church building, I looked forward to walking together to church on this particular morning. But we ended up leaving the house a minute or two behind schedule and my uncompromisingly punctual husband had a one-track mind: getting to church as quickly as he possibly could. No thought about how romantic it’d be to stroll to church hand-in-hand with his wife… No thought about how his wife was wearing uncomfortable shoes that only permitted her to walk only so fast… By the time he turned the first corner from our street, I was several paces behind and the distance was quickly expanding. When I too reached the corner, I resigned myself from even attempting to keep up. In that moment I knew I had a choice. I could harbor bitterness toward my husband for ruining what had been a potentially enjoyable stroll to church, OR I could take advantage of walking alone and pray for my husband on the way to church. By God’s grace, I chose the latter. An incident that could have been blown out of proportion and drove a wedge in my marriage simply became an opportunity to extend gentleness and understanding and love to my husband, instead. 

(II) If you asked me if I was a submissive wife I’d wholeheartedly tell you, “Of course!” But when it comes to the little things like parking a car or making minor decisions, I am the first to attempt to micromanage my marriage and husband. I like to have things under control… my control. That being said, to practice gentleness in the area of allowing my husband to lead was not always easy. I started with insignificant details like allowing him to choose the path we took on our walks or what we watched in the evenings or what kind of pizza we ordered. I knew that if I couldn’t release control in these small areas, I wouldn’t be able to follow him when it came to larger issues within our marriage.

However, there were two particular instances in which I did not submit to John this month. The first time was right before we were heading out the door for family pictures. He was wearing sneakers with his nice khaki shorts and dress shirt. Unfortunately I did not approach the subject gently… without tactfulness I blurted out, “You are NOT wearing those!” My poor husband hardly put up a fight, probably because this was not the first time I’d made demands about his attire, and he knew how stubborn I could be. Thankfully I’m a work in progress.

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                    Family Photo by @DavidBruecknerPhotography                          [note John’s shoes to the far left]

The second time I lacked submissive gentleness was at my brother’s wedding. I knew beforehand that my husband does not like to dance and absolutely refuses to do so, yet I badgered him relentlessly about dancing with me. I pointed out other couples who were dancing, reminded him we still hadn’t had our “first dance” together, and even tried to get others to persuade him to dance with me. Talk about a woman who’s a dripping faucet!

john-and-clare
John and I at the wedding

3. Health- (I) Stretch muscles daily and (II) reward myself with a small indulgence once a week.

(I) Though I didn’t stretch every single day in August, I only missed six days total. This one was pretty easy since I usually stretch at least a little before and after going for a run.

running

(II) I don’t remember if I “indulged” in anything the first week of August, but during the second week I enjoyed both gluten-free pizza and ice cream! The ice cream was sweetened with fructose and was actually frozen yogurt, but it was still very much a treat for me. I liked it so much that I went back a couple weeks later for more! I also “treated” myself to delicious homemade desserts, gluten-free hot dog and hamburger buns, potato chips, and extra time relaxing and reading.

4. Homemaking- (I)  Don’t consider any household task “below” me or a waste of time, (II) take on tasks that John usually performs, and (III) tackle a home project I’ve been putting off for years (… cleaning our back porch).

(I) I don’t remember thinking that any of my housework was a waste of time. But toward the end of the month there was one night in which I lost track of time and completely forgot to make my poor husband dinner before scampering off to prayer meeting. And to make matters worse, all of our bowls were dirtied, so he not only had to fix himself oatmeal for dinner but he also had to wash his own bowl, first! After that incident I knew I needed to buckle down and be more diligent about keeping a weekly menu and staying on top of housework.

(II) Since my husband works 50 hours most weeks, leaving early in the morning and not returning home until 7:30pm or later, I assume most of the household responsibilities. There is one that he often does, however: take out the recycling and trash. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to doing this task for him the first week, but was sure to do so in the following weeks. It only took 3 minutes of my time each week, but I know it was a blessing to him.

(III) This was the perfect month to tackle cleaning my back porch since I had so much extra time on my hands. We’ve lived in this duplex for 4 years in October and I had never once vacuumed that porch. It has just always served as more of a storage area than anything else. The only time I looked at it was when I opened the door to recycle a can or box, but I knew it needed to be cleaned and organized sooner or later. I guess I never got around to it earlier because I never made it a priority. It just goes to show how powerful goals can be! I’m so grateful I finally buckled down and made our porch nice and neat.

backporch
My (finally) Clean Back Porch!

5. Interactions- (I) Serve somebody the world considers “below” me each week and (II) bear all offenses without complaint.

(I) This goal was difficult for me because I personally don’t think anybody is below me. But I had to continually remind myself of the phrase, “somebody the world considers “below” me”. So, in the world’s perspective, spending an afternoon watching and playing with children was a waste of my time and energy. In the world’s eyes, the elderly I spent time talking to and connecting with were beneath me. In the world’s eyes, the individuals I ministered to at the crisis pregnancy center were scum. But in God’s eyes–and in my eyes–each and every one are precious and have immeasurable worth and dignity.

(II) I don’t really remember if anybody offended me this past month. Perhaps not, or perhaps if they did I was able to overlook it and thus not even remember it.

6. Books I Read: I’m grateful I was able to read so much during the month of August. I’ve read 65 books so far this year! Here are a few from this past month:

  • The Relationship Cure (John Gottman)

relationshipcure

This book was not written from a Christian perspective, but it was still well-written and founded on excellent research. Though it wouldn’t be the first marital book I’d recommend to a couple, it is still worth the read. It made me more aware of the nuances in my communication with others that either improved the relationship or hindered it. For example, instead of giving one word answers to a question that is asked of me, I have been trying to elaborate more and ask questions in return. Just one more thing to practice in order to improve in the area of communication.

  • The Normal Christian Life (Watchman Nee)

thenormalchristianlife

I enjoyed this book and it gave me plenty to think about. There was one particular point he made that hit me right on the top of the head. Speaking of sanctification and holiness, he explained that Christ Himself is holiness. “Today there is a call for patience: he is our patience! Tomorrow the call may be for purity: he is our purity! He is the answer to every need. That is why Paul speaks of ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ as one (Gal. 5:22) and not of ‘fruits’ as separate items.” These are my favorite kind of books, so I’m biased, but you should definitely read this book if you desire to live for Christ.

  • Live Life on Purpose (Claude Hickman)

lifeonpurpose

The main focus of this book was evangelism and missions. Hickman opened my eyes to the fact God is concerned with the fame of His name. After reading this book I started to notice in my quiet times all the times God punishes His people because they have not upheld His great name and all the times God makes mention of all nations fearing Him. Definitely a great book to dive into.

  • Sense & Sensuality (Ravi Zacharias)

sensesensuality

When I picked up this book, it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. Ravi Zacharias took liberty to write in conversation style between Jesus and the promiscuous Oscar Wilde on his death bed. I like nonfiction works far more than fiction, so it was difficult for me to get into this book. However, he made many wonderful points throughout and it was very thought-provoking.

  • The Unlikely Missionary E-book (Dan King)

the-unlikely-missionary2

I was a little disappointed that this “missionary” was merely in Africa for two weeks. I wasn’t expecting the title to be referring to short-term missions. However, his insights were good and it brought me back to my own short-term experiences in Africa.

  • Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God E-book (John Piper)

disability-and-the-sovereign-goodness-of-god

I always love John Piper’s works. This one was no exception. He tackled the difficult issue of disability with tact, unifying it with God’s sovereign goodness. He also interviewed a man whose son was born without eyes, delving into the practical, every day application of reconciling pain and suffering in this world with God’s character.

  • Divine Design E-book (John McArthur, Jr.)

divinedesign

Definitely a great read for all Christian couples. I especially appreciated McArthur’s expository explanation of why women are not to exercise authority over man. He doesn’t twist Scripture to make it say what he wants, but he looks closely at each passage dealing with the issue at hand and interprets it in light of its cultural and historical context, laying it all out in an easy-to-understand format. If you want to fulfill your God-given role as a woman, you should definitely read this book.

  • Unglued Audio Book (Lysa TerKeurst)

unglued

I listened to this book while training for my marathon and I really enjoyed it. Though I don’t yet have children, there was plenty that still related to my own personal situation in life. Lisa TerKeurst is honest, sympathetic, and encourages practical application. If you struggle with “losing it” in stressful situations, this book is for you. I liked it so much I am considering buying a hard-copy book and reading it again!

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT GENTLENESS

Many people mistakenly believe to be gentle is to show weakness. But there is an illustration I came across by Myer Pearlman that has forever changed my perspective on gentleness:

“A guide was taking a group of visitors through a factory. One of the things he showed them was a giant steam hammer capable of flattening an automobile. Then the guide put down a walnut and had the hammer break the shell without hurting the meat of the nut. What an illustration of gentleness as power under perfect control!”

Gentleness is “power under perfect control.” This is no easy feat. To show one’s strength while keeping it under control in the midst of difficult circumstances is… well, HARD. Probably the area in which gentleness is most needed in life is with raising children. Though I do not yet have children of my own, I have a lot of caretaking and ministry experience with children of all ages. When it comes to disciplining children in love, it’s a balancing act. You want to be authoritative in a sense that children will listen and obey. Yet, if you do not have their respect and you do not speak to them in love, it’s likely they will not heed your words.

I had the privilege of witnessing my nephew’s birth many years ago. He is now 12 years old and has been known to get into a spat or two with the adults in his life. When I spent a couple days with him this past month I decided to especially practice gentleness toward him. Kids like him get harped on a lot because they have a lot of energy and can get carried away at times. But I decided ahead of time that I didn’t want to join the chorus of meticulous nit-picking and barking of commands. Instead, I would be intentional about encouraging him when he did something right, be silent when his actions weren’t putting himself or others in danger, and correct gently if the situation warranted it. Guess what happened? He listened to me! Because I spoke to him in love, even when correcting him or asking him to do something, he felt respected and responded with obedience. Nobody likes to be talked down to and though an adult should be the authority over a child, the relationship can still be marked by gentleness.

To show gentleness is to be considerate and courteous. The Greek word translated as gentleness in our English language is “Epiekes”, which literally means equitable, fair, moderate, considerateness, sweet reasonableness, and not insisting on the letter of the law.

I love what Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss have to say about gentleness from their workbook, True Woman 101: Divine Design:

“Gentleness is the opposite of being insistent on one’s own rights, being rude or pushy, or demanding one’s own way… Gentleness means we wholly rely on God rather than our own strength to defend ourselves against difficulty or injustice. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. Gentleness isn’t self-abasement. It’s the mark of the wise woman who remains calm even in the face of other people’s shortcomings.”

As Lysa TerKeurst notes in her book, Unglued, we should “absorb the blow” when we are offended by somebody, just like a pillow absorbs the blow of a fist. This doesn’t mean keeping it inside and letting it fester. It means letting it go. Not allowing the situation to upset you or make you bitter. I wish I had listened to her book earlier in the month because it would have helped me one evening while riding bicycles with my husband.

We had just enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch at the beach and were heading home. Since I am a slower bike-rider, he graciously allowed me to take the lead on our rendezvous. That is until we were 2.5 miles from home and he announced his gluteus maximus was beginning to hurt and he wanted to get home as quickly as possible. He then proceeded to pull in front of my bike and increase the pace two-fold. Despite the fact I was pedaling as fast as I could, the gap was continuing to grow between us and I was becoming increasingly annoyed with my husband. Doesn’t he realize I have to run 16 miles tomorrow? How could he be so inconsiderate? On and on my thoughts went, ripping into the same man that I had been laughing and contentedly conversing with only minutes earlier. Hearing me call out my complaints behind him, he graciously pulled over to wait for me. But instead of slowing down when I reached him, I sped right past, giving him an evil glare and sticking out my tongue at him. So mature, I know. Thankfully, we quickly worked through our dispute, but perhaps Lysa’s advice to “absorb the blow” would’ve been helpful in this instance. Perhaps I would have responded closer to how I did on our walk to church [see update on marriage goals].

I don’t know if they’re true or not, but I’ve read a couple stories about George Washington and how he was a gentle man. One day, while fox hunting with a group of his friends, George Washington’s horse knocked a stone off the wall he had jumped over. Rather than continuing on his way as though nothing had happened, he immediately stopped, got off his horse, and put the stone back in place. Seeing this, one friend declared, “You are too big a man to bother with that.” But George Washington gently responded, “No, I am just the right size.”

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On another occasion, George Washington observed a corporal at Valley Forge direct three men as they attempted to lift a heavy log into place. Despite their perseverance and the corporal hollering out, “One, two, three, lift!” over and over, the log was just too heavy. George Washington walked over and asked the corporal, “Why don’t you help them?” Puffing out his chest and smoothing his uniform, the corporal retorted, “Sir, I am a corporal.” Without a word, General George Washington began to help the struggling men and in a matter of moments, the log went easily into place.

What an example of true gentleness. George Washington did tasks that were- by the world’s standards- below him. He had position and power that he could have used to demand the prideful corporal to pitch in and get his hands a little dirty. Instead, George Washington led by example. His actions spoke far louder than his words and I am sure the corporal learned a lesson he never forgot on that day.

Reflecting on this one day led me to apply for a job I had previously overlooked. It was a janitorial position. I’ve had several custodial jobs in the past and didn’t mind the work, but as I was doing my preliminary job searching I decided to forgo applying to this particular position because it was “below my pay range.” I have a bachelors degree, so why should I consider a job like that? Unfortunately, that was my original attitude, but once I realized this was an opportunity to exhibit gentleness, I immediately applied for the job. For reasons I’m unaware of, I was not chosen for the position, but I learned an important lesson along the way: no job, no duty, and no person is below me. 

George Matheson says it best:

“Of Moses it was to be said in miniature what of his Antitype can be said in full- that his gentleness made him great. Not when he parted the waters of the Red Sea, not when he sang his hymn of triumph on the shores of liberty, is he half so great as when he bore the sorrows and endured the murmurings of that rude, undisciplined multitude. If ever a man has inherited the earth by meekness, that man was Moses. His was a grand, unselfish life, made to wait upon the lives of others.”

I would love for people to say that of my life. But how did Moses become a man known for his gentleness? I believe it was his close walk with God, his life of unceasing prayer and dependence upon the Lord.

As I mentioned above, one of the books I read this past month was The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. His arguments changed the way I prayed about gentleness. For example, on August 8th my prayer was, “Lord, help me be gentle in my demeanor, for Jesus’ sake,” while on August 18th after finishing Nee’s book my prayer was, “Jesus, I want You. Demonstrate Your gentleness through me, for Jesus’ sake.” I realized that He is all I need.

prayer
An example of a prayer I wrote from my journal.

“It does not matter what your personal deficiency, or whether it be a hundred and one different things, God has always one sufficient answer, his Son Jesus Christ, and he is the answer to every human need.”

I began to ask for more of Jesus, knowing that the more I have of Him, the more I am like Him. And the more I am like Him, the more I will exhibit fruit such as gentleness. Lord, give me Jesus.

 

What are your thoughts on gentleness?

 

 

 

My Goals for September

September’s Focus = SELF-CONTROL

My goal for September is to become more self-controlled [to use self-constraint in the midst of temptation] by giving up one meal a week to pray, sticking to a strict budget in order to save for a romantic outing with John, only watching entertainment from Friday through Sundays, breaking the habit of chewing my nails, avoiding technology until housework is done daily, and avoiding all negative comments. I will use a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

  1. Faith- (I) Pray every day that God would increase my self-control, (II) Memorize and meditate upon an entire Book of the Bible this month and (III) Give up one meal per week to pray.
  2. Marriage– (I) Stick to a strict budget and save for a romantic outing to enjoy at the end of the month and (II) Only watch t.v. or movies from Friday-Sunday (find other more meaningful and interactive activities to do together, instead).
  3. Health- (I) Stop chewing nails, (II) Be strict with medical diet and (III) Don’t slack off with marathon training.
  4. Homemaking- (I) Avoid technology until household tasks are finished daily.
  5. Interactions– (I) Refrain from all negative comments, (II) Avoid gossip and (III) Refrain from judging others.

 

Do you have goals for September?

Update on July’s Goals & What I Learned About Faithfulness

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.

  1. 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.

wedding

(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).

cleanhouse

(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).

booksstacked

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?

pray

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.

dodge

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.

 

 

My Goals for August

Focus for August = GENTLENESS

My goal for August is to become a gentler person [to show restraint coupled with strength and courage] by serving those whom the world deems “below” me, bearing offenses without complaint, allowing John to lead, and by daily stretching my muscles. I will use a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.

  1. Faith- Memorize and meditate upon 3 appropriate verses about gentleness each week, pray daily that God would make me a gentle person, and meditate upon Christ’s gentleness weekly.
  2. Marriage– Overlook minor offenses and allow John to lead in our marriage (by not questioning or micromanaging him, not telling him how to drive, etc.)
  3. Health- Stretch muscles daily and reward myself with a small indulgence once a week (things like stevia-sweetened chocolate, zevia soda, extra reading time, etc.)
  4. Homemaking- Don’t consider any household task “below” me or a waste of time, take on tasks that John usually performs, and tackle a home project I’ve been putting off for years (… cleaning our back porch).
  5. Interactions– Serve somebody the world considers “below” me each week and bear all offenses without complaint.
  6. Books to Read- There were several books I wasn’t able to finish during July, so the books I hope to read in the month of August are as follows:
  • Boundaries in Marriage (Cloud & Townsend)
  • The Relationship Cure (John Gottman)
  • The Normal Christian Life (Watchman Nee)
  • Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (John Piper)

 

What goals do you hope to accomplish this month?