Saturday, November 29, 2008

A RELAXing search for Contentment!

Greed as defined for this article: the excessive, insatiable selfish desire to acquire or possess more (including but not limited to material wealth) than one needs or deserves.

Lust as defined for this article: an intense desire or craving (possibly obsessive), including but not limited to a sexual nature.

Introduction

As a single female, I never expected to find myself writing about lust in connection with contentment, especially at thanksgiving. I mean during this time we are supposed to write about how thankful we are for our families and friends…right? While I am thankful for both of those, but I am also grateful for the lessons God has been teaching me this year. Some of these lessons have been unexpected and come in such unexpected ways. At the beginning of the semester a dear friend loaned me a book, SexGod, by Rob Bell. While reading SexGod, one quote stood out, and I wrote it in my journal, little expecting the numerous times I would read it over and how God would use it to convict me.

QUOTE (Rob Bell)

"When we're not at peace, when we aren't content, when we aren't in a good place, our radar gets turned on. We're looking. Searching. And we're sensory creatures, so it won't be long before something, or somebody, catches our attention."

Ingratitude leads to discontentment which leads to unhealthy desires: Greed and Lust.

This quote set me a journey of evaluating my life in context of gratitude. Along the way I realized that “lust” applied to a lot more then sexual desire. I realized that often in life I “lust” after situations, things and yes, people. When I am in those places, it is because I am not satisfied or content with those things that God has given me, always wanting more. Whether you want to admit it or not, I am pretty sure that if you are single, married, young or old, you struggle with this too. I don’t know what your area of “lust” or “greed” is, but is your radar turned on? Are you searching for things that you don’t have and want- desperately? Are you allowing yourself to come to a point of desperate longing?

Punishing God?

I think everyone struggles with this no matter their situation and personality, but how are we going to approach it? For me, as I have evaluated my life I began to see the areas of my life that I was not “grateful” for and how they corresponded to areas of greed and lust. The first step is definitely recognizing there is a problem, and boy what a problem it can be. I realized how discontent I was; how many areas of my life were negatively affected, including my prayer life. I saw that since I was not happy with where I was, I didn’t really want to pray because as a teacher of mine says “God wasn’t playing [my] way.” No matter how many times I had heard about not using God as a vending machine, I was still expecting him to “vend” me a different situation and when he didn’t… I “punished” him by not talking to him. How silly is that? It was then that I relized I needed to…

Just RELAX!

Realize that Lust, greed, and discontentment are “partners in crime”!
Evaluate the ways ingratitude is affecting your life
Let go of your wishes, desires and plans.
Affirm (to Him and others) the ways God is meeting needs and blessing you.
Xpect that everything God places before you is for your benefit.

Gratitude leads to Contentment which leads to healthy desires, healthy situations, and healthy people.

Personally, I had to consciously find ways to thank God for the situations that I wasn’t happy with; Choosing to see that no matter what the situations are God is in it, in control, and working it out for my benefit. I had to make a very concerted effort, and still do, to find the good things He is doing in spite of, and perhaps because of, the situations that I am less then pleased about. In doing so I began to find that you can become quite happy and at peace with the situation even if you have the HEALTHY desire for something different. You have to choose where you are going to focus and what you are going to place first in your life. Are you going to set your [out of control] desires up as idols? If you align your priorities and heart it become that, a desire, not an out of control desire: greed, lust or discontent. In letting go of my desires and expressing my (at first stubborn) gratitude, I slowly began to change not only in my unhealthy desires but also healthy desires began to naturally grow, desires to serve and grow closer to God. Yes, I still deal with wanting to be in different situations but somehow I have found that my gratitude has slowly lowered the “radar of greed and lust.” I know I am where God wants me… and that is enough, He is enough.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Quote

 Part 3 of Overcoming Discouragement will be posted next Friday, December 5th, 2008.

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the LORD.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to, feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

--Abraham Lincoln - 1863

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Living My Thankfulness


It's Thanksgiving today.
The time when all or most of America gets together with family and friends, and, those who remember why this day was created, talk and share what they are most thankful for.

Yes, it's Thanksgiving.
The day we all know as a tribute of praise to the Lord for preserving the Pilgrims through their hardships, to build this land.

It's Thanksgiving.
So of course I'm thankful.

Today.

Tomorrow I may stub my toe on the chair (or as I said to Mom as a frustrated, crying kid "Choe on the tair!") and forget to be thankful I have a chair to sit on, and don't have to sit on the floor.

Sunday I may rise from bed, groggily prepare for church, while wishing I could sleep just a tad bit later in the morning, and forget to thank God that I can worship Him without fear of soldiers banging down the church door and slaughtering the congregation.

Next week I may feel down about my life, and feel like it's not fair that none of my dreams ever seem to come to pass, and forget to be thankful I have a God who sees my future, and loves me enough to give me only what is best for me, and what will bring Him glory.

So yes, today I'm thankful. Today I'm grateful.

Today.

Sometimes, while I love Thanksgiving, and I love having a specific day of thankfulness, I fear I forget that thanksgiving is not a yearly holiday. Thanksgiving should be a lifetime. Not merely saying "Thank you" to the Lord, but living my thankfulness, every day, every hour. In everything. Giving thanks always. Continuously.

Far too often I use Thanksgiving as my "catch up" day. Lord I'll praise and thank You on Thanksgiving, but.........don't ask me to do it when my plans go awry. I'll worship You and show my gratitude on Thanksgiving but........don't expect me to do it when I'm sitting in the same situation in life as always. Because I'll grateful when I see something to be grateful about.

The truth is, if we really saw everything we have to be grateful to God for, I think we'd be completely overwhelmed with gratitude. Friends, if God never gives us another thing, we have so much to be thankful for to Him, it would take several life times to truly express the gratitude He deserves. God is more good to us than we can imagine. Our cups truly, truly do run over.

God has been showing me the importance of praising Him even in the littlest things. If nothing happens by chance (and I don't believe it does) then everything comes through the hand of God, and is for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The smallest thing is a reason for giving thanks--because even each of our breaths are in His hand.

So I for one want this next year of mine (and all the others to come) to be a lifetime of thanksgiving--with or without the turkey.

To start off, here are some things I am most thankful for this day:

Little things like green traffic lights all the way to the store or wherever else I'm going (God often gives me this little treat)

My salvation, for without Him I can do nothing, and am nothing

My family

My friends

My life

My Bible

My country

Music

Words

My church

My imagination

And many many other things that I don't have room to write.

Give Thanks--for He truly is worthy of it.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Thanksgiving Prayer

For Life, to serve You
For Grace, always enough
For Prayer, without ceasing 
For Comfort, You are there
For Beauty, so I can see You
For Justice, Your perfect plan
For Breath, so I can praise You
For Faithfulness, never giving up on me
For Peace, deep down at the core of my soul
For Wisdom, to see that Your way is flawless
For Joy, moments of feeling Your love, so real
For Family, so I can better understand Your love
For Strength, because mine isn't enough, and never will be
For Mercy, new every morning before I even open my eyes
For Providing, more important than what I want, what I need
For Love, unconditional, when I don't deserve it, when I don't even love myself


THANK YOU

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart…
- "Thankful Song," Veggie Tales


This month has had its ups and downs for me. It began with a terrific high. I spent seven November days in beautiful, beautiful England – how much higher could a bibliophile and anglophile get? Beautiful countryside, wonderful friends, an amazing city and a place that feels like home even though it isn’t.

And then my great-grandmother passed away, suddenly. While it wasn’t as unexpected for my family, it was for me. Since I was an ocean away, the news that my great-grandmother was doing poorly fell between the cracks; all the news I heard was filed away with, “Her health has been like this for the last two months.”

I heard of her death while sitting in a Starbucks around the corner from Kensington Palace on the rainy afternoon of my last day in England. The rain seemed very fitting. Sometimes I wonder why I cry when I think of little things about her; I was never close to her, but…she was my great-grandmother. She was my mom’s grandmother and my memere’s mother. And she’s gone. She will never meet any children I may someday have. She won’t be sitting at the dinner table this Thanksgiving. She will never ask my mom, “Does Krista have a boyfriend?” and say, “Good, good! She should wait, she is still young!” when my mother tells her about the lack of a boyfriend in my life.

Still, life continues. It’s been nearly a week since the funeral, which occurred two days after I arrived home in the States. The week has flown by, but has blended together. Work has been stressful, busy and will stay insanely busy for weeks. I have a head cold and life just feels…blah.

I have so much to be thankful for, but I feel as though I lack the joy that I keep thinking should come with thankfulness. I am thankful for my family, for friends, for my trip, for memories. I am thankful that God orchestrated the last day of my great-grandmother’s life in some of the best possible ways, giving time for family to say goodbye. I am thankful for my job, even if it is stressful and crazy-busy right now, because jobs are precious during these hard times.

But being thankful doesn’t always mean that I will feel happy. A thankful heart is a happy heart, yes…but a heart can ache and be thankful at the same time, too. Giving thanks in all circumstances and occasions…that is beauty. To give thanks when life is beautiful and exciting and joyous is easy. Giving thanks through tears, and rejoicing while we ache…that is more difficult. Difficult, but perhaps giving thanks now is even more important than during the easy seasons of life.

As the hymn says,

In the season of plenty, in the season of our need
We will find His grace sufficient, we will find His love complete


And so, this year I praise Him and give thanks:

In thanksgiving, let us praise Him; In thanksgiving let us sing.
Songs of praise and adoration to our gracious Lord and King


And maybe, just maybe, with the giving of thanks, the happy heart will come a little more easily, too. But I will give thanks, no matter what circumstances, happy or sad; I will give thanks with a grateful heart.

Whatever circumstances you are in, whether they come with laughter or tears, pain or joy, I hope and pray that you have a blessed and grateful Thanksgiving.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

And the winner of the Tea Basket is.....

Laura Ansley
Congratulations!
Email us your address at idontdateforum[at]gmail.com and we will get it off to you asap.

A big thank you to everyone who entered. We really appreciate you helping us with our first ever giveaway. We plan to do more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned! Keep the comments coming, they are a blessing!!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Overcoming Discouragement Part 2

ANNOUNCEMENT FIRST! This next week we will be concentrating  solely on Thanksgiving, touch subjects like the history of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Traditions, and Things That We Are (or should be) Thankful For.  So check back daily!!!
Also this is the last day you can register to win the fabulous Tea Basket.  You have until midnight.  Go here to register!

Confession: When I said I would post the next part to my Overcoming Discouragement series next week, I forgot it was the week before Thanksgiving and I was supposed to do a Thanksgiving post.  So, I'm going to combine posts :)



The very first lesson I learned about overcoming discouragement happened on Sunday morning during praise and worship.  I can't remember what we were singing, but I was feeling down and couldn't bring myself up to a place where I could truly glorify God and praise Him.  Then we started singing a song, and I feel something in me leap.  And a little bit of light shown into my darkness.  And I got excited, I reached out to God and he poured strength into me to give me the ability to truly praise him in song.  I distinctly remember standing up front with the musicians and playing my violin and this joy just filled my soul and I could only think about God and his love and mercy, and everything that He had done for me.  I was happy I wasn't discouraged and all I could think about was praising God.  For days afterward if I at any point felt discouragement creeping in I would just start to sing, or hum, or if I was at work or somewhere like that, just think the song.  The discouragement will flee.  Why, well... because when you are praising God and your thoughts and totally turned on Him, there is no opportunity for the devil to get his foot in the door.  This is what I wrote during that time.

God never wants us to be down trodden.

It's amazing to me how you can go for a day, or days, or a week or even weeks on end feeling down trodden and searching for answers.  Pleading with God for somethig; and anwswer, encouragement, whatever it is that you need.  And then you get to a place where you start praising the Lord, giving Him the glory and honor, and just telling Him that you love Him.  And in that moment of time all your cares go away.  You suddenly no longer care about the problems, the searching, the pleading for an answer.  Suddenly, you no longer care.  It flees your mind and all you care about it God.

Now, for the Thanksgiving part :)  This song has really been an encouragement to me during my recent struggle.  It reminds me to press on and thank God all the time even when things aren't going the way we want or wish they would.  To thank for Him life, food on the table, friends and family.  You get the idea.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rejoice with those who rejoice


Sometimes the hardest part of singleness is not the waiting.

No one enjoys waiting. If you're anything like me, you prefer to wait very little for anything. Patience is a hard virtue to learn. But despite the difficulty of waiting, I think there is something that can be harder.

Rejoicing. Not just rejoicing.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice.

We love camaraderie. We love having friends who can empathize with us, and link their arms through ours with the understanding that they are in the same place and we are not alone. This is especially true for those who've been single several years. We like being in the same position. We like the knowledge that we aren't the only one left.

And then it happens. Your friend meets someone. They court. They get engaged. They marry.

Oh of course you're happy for them--you're supposed to be. After all, they would be that way for you. You're fine with it, really. The wedding was lovely. And now they're off to their honeymoon.

While you go back to.........where you still are. Single. And deep down, it feels a little unfair. You're back to "square one".

My friends, let's be honest--haven't we all felt this way before? Haven't we all said "Hey, so happy for you!" while inside we're thinking But I wish it was me!

This is where rejoicing with those who rejoice becomes hard. When they have something you want.

I'm convinced in my own life that I really don't let the truth of Romans 8:28 sink down into my being as it should. I am called according to God's purpose. He chose to create a purpose for me, a sinner. For His glory. Not mine. For His purpose. Not mine.

How it must grieve my Lord when I spend more time fussing over the purpose He's given to someone else, rather than seeking the purpose He's created for me.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice means realizing that my life is not happening as it is by mistake. God is not rewarding so and so because they "did it right".
He is moving their life elsewhere according to the purpose He has for them.
And I am not where I am because I "did it wrong".
I am where I am because God is fulfilling His purpose in my life, for His glory.
It should be exciting to us, to know that we are part of His plan! Celebrate!
You are not single by mistake. God is preparing you for the next part of your purpose, whatever it may be. Rejoicing is more than being happy for someone.
Rejoicing is praising the Lord because He is faithfully directing their lives to fulfill His plans.

So rather than bemoan when someone moves in the direction you're wishing for, smile!
God is at work in both of your lives--to fulfill the purposes He has called you to.

And you haven't gotten lost in the shuffle.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Broken Hearts

"A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise."
Psalm 51, Prayer Book, Jordanville translation

Why do we wait? Why do we not just go out into the world and date whoever we like for however long? Many times we will say it is because we are saving ourselves for our future husband. This is an admirable decision. But sometimes people will say that they believe in waiting, believe in courtship or "dating with a purpose" to save them from a broken heart.

While this attitude is understandable, I think we have to ask whether it comes from God or from a selfish desire to avoid pain. But our hearts will be broken. They will be broken by friends, by co-workers, by family, by the times we live in, by characters in books--and I do not believe this is a bad thing. When our hearts are broken we learn to turn to God. We learn to share the pain of others. If we walk through the world untouched by those around us, we are not really following God's will.

Now, I am not advocating that we go out and open our hearts up to every young man we meet. I'm not advocating that we abandon the courtship/dating with a purpose ideal. What I am advocating is an end to the idea that courtship will somehow save us from a broken heart and that this is a good thing. Courtship is not a guarantee that our lives will be safe and happy. I wouldn't want it to be because God did not ask that our lives be safe and happy. He asked that our lives be His.

Part of the reason I think it is important to look at this issue squarely is that the idea that courtship prevents broken hearts has a corollary: If you have a broken heart, you did it wrong somehow. This idea is so destructive. It leads to so much shame and guilt where instead there should be a turning to God for healing and love. Sometimes hearts are broken through no fault of their own. I know it sounds wrong and unfair, but it is the truth. And to add blame to that pain is wrong.

I know I've been a little harsh in this post. But there is hope out there. Remember, "a heart that is broken and humbled, God will not despise." It hurts. And yet God is there, to turn all our sorrow to joy, to "wipe all tears from every face," according to one Orthodox prayer. His grace can turn our dross to gold.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TEA BASKET GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Attention Readers!  As a special way of showing our appreciation and a thank you for reading our blog we are hosting a "Tea Basket Giveaway"!!!  Start cheering now, because this is going to be a really fantastic-ly fun prize!

Every one of us here at the IDD  Blog has contributed something to make up this good-y basket to go to one lucky winner!

Whoever wins this basket gets:
Tea Cup and Tea from Deb
A lovely potpourri sachet from Maureen
Chocolate from Krista
A yummy recipe from Sarah 
Cute woodsy basket from Katie
Scarf from Rebecca

Sounds lovely, no?
So, here are the rules.  Leave a note in the comments here using the phrase "please enter me in the drawing."  And then, (since you're already commenting) :) let us know what you think of the blog, ask us any questions you'd like, tell us what you'd like to see more of, whatever you want!  You can only enter once UNLESS...... You also give us a shoutout!  If you let other people know about our site and the prize giveaway on your  LJ or blog, you can enter your name twice!  Just leave us a link to your blog or LJ in the comments with your twice entered name :)

So, that's it!  You have until Friday night at midnight to enter.  The winner will be announced Saturday!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

A Perfectionist Learns to Knit

Stitch your stress away.
- Author Unknown

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either.
- Elizabeth Zimmerman


My sister is teaching me to knit. I had the brilliant idea of creating a simple, yet pretty scarf to give to a friend. I have two weeks in which to learn and finish a perfect masterpiece.

I’m an impatient perfectionist.

I want it to look beautiful and I want it to look beautiful now.

Five rows of stitches later, my scarf looks as though it two of my siblings were fighting over it; some stitches are tight, others are loose and the entire thing just looks…wobbly.

“You just need to get the hang of it,” my sister says. “It will improve.”

My brother looks at the fern green bit of scarf thoughtfully. “So, one end will look great and the other will look horrible. Nice!”

I glower at my knitting and begin tearing out stitches. The yarn breaks and well, it’s bedtime. Tomorrow is another day. Another day in which I can drop stitches and learn to find that nice balance between loose stitches and tight.

People say knitting is therapeutic. Perhaps it is. Learning to knit certainly is not.

And yet, I think I like the clicking of the needles and the sight of my fuzzy green yarn turning into something, even if it is a crooked, wobbly something. Maybe it will turn out to be stress-relieving after all.

I’ll let you know how it turns out, wobbliness and all.

- written October 2008

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Overcoming Discouragment Part 1

The last few weeks have probably been the most roller coaster-y weeks of my life.  You see, the devil decided that I should take a long walk down Discouragement  Lane.  The only thing is, God didn't want me down there and frankly I wasn't to happy about it either.  So, I've been up and down, in and out of discouragment quite a bit lately.  Now, you are probably wondering why on earth I'm telling you all this.  Well... I'm telling you this because through those weeks God gave me some wonderful tools to overcoming discouragement.  I'd learn the lesson, use the tool and be happy for a few days, successfully using the new tool I'd received.  Then a few days later the devil would figure a way around my new found happiness and I'd head down Discouragement Lane again.  After repeating this a few times I began asking God why?  "Why are letting me go through this?  Why didn't the first tool work for good?"  God felt so far away and I kept asking why? "Why were you so close some may times recently only for me to turn around and wonder where you went?  I know you didn't leave me, but why am I going through this.  Where are you this time, I need the next tool, I'm trying to learn what you have for me, but I'm lost I need your help!!!" For a while, I didn't have an answer, then one day a quote popped into my head, and I didn't understand it.  It just kept coming over and over thinking "It was then that I carried you."  My finite mind didn't understand that that was my answer.  God was telling me that he was there, in fact he wasn't far from me at all.  He had scooped me up in His strong arms and was safely and securing carrying me back to happy territory :-)
So, hopefully over the next few weeks I will be imparting those tools to you.  God gave me the opportunity to learn and have the experience of using the tools, and hopefully they will be an encouragement and tool for you to use as well.  Not that you should be discouraged, but just in case, I'll give you a few tips to help you along the way.
So until next week I'll leave you with the last thing God gave me.
"It was then that I carried you."
and all I could do was grab ahold of that and say "O.k. Lord I'm trusting that you are carrying me."

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loving People


"Love is doing what will enthrall the beloved with the greatest and longest joy. What will enthrall the beloved this way is the glory of God. Love means doing all we can, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help people be enthralled with the glory of God. When they are, they are satisfied and God is glorified. Therefore loving people and glorifying God are one.”

~John Piper

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Great Expectations Part 2

PART ONE HERE  
              Girls, let’s face it.  There are not very many of us that are totally and completely content with our lives as they are.  I’ve never met anyone that could tell me they loved their life so much, that there wasn’t one single thing about it they would ever want to change.  And if I ever did hear someone say that I would probably assume they were fibbing.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we all have terrible lives.  I certainly don’t have a terrible life.  In fact, I have a pretty good life.  But, I’m not wholly and absolutely happy all the time.  Sometimes I feel like I have huge voids in my life.  Since I’m single I find myself quite often blaming my discontent on being single.  I’ve heard a lot of girls doing this same thing.  And along with that comes the idea that “if I had a husband I’d be happy.”  I’d have someone to talk to.  Someone who understands me.  I’d feel like I had a purpose in life. 

                 This is a very dangerous way to think.   Of course we girls should long for marriage.  It’s a very good and proper thing to desire.  We’re supposed to desire it. But, marriage is not a cure-all for what-ails-you.  If you’re struggling with something in your life, don’t just chalk it up to your lack of a significant other.  Dig a little deeper.  Find the real reason and deal with it.  If you don’t, it will be all that much harder to deal with later when you are married.  Once you are married you are responsible for so much more than just yourself.  Everyone and everything you are responsible for will suffer for your buried issues. 

                  Imagine this.  You have a bitterness buried deep in your heart, and all your single years you refuse to deal with it.  You assume that the real reason you are unhappy and discontent is that you are lonely.  Someday a handsome prince comes into your life.  He is just wonderful, everything you’ve ever wanted in a husband.  He sweeps you off your feet.  You get married in June.  You are happy for a while.  But, then something happens that upsets you.  He says something insensitive.  He doesn’t mean to, but he’s human, after all.  He makes mistakes.  But, you are hurt.  All the old bitterness comes to the surface.  Suddenly, whatever little thing it was that upset you to begin with blows up into a huge issue.  He doesn’t know what he did that caused you to get so riled up, and you are mad that he is so insensitive that he doesn’t know.  You’re certainly not going to pour salt in your own wound by spelling it out for him.  So, you stomp out of the room and slam the door.  Icy silence for a few hours.  Or days maybe.  You’re not happy, He’s not happy, the kids aren’t happy…  When Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy… right? 

                Girls we need to be so careful in our expectations.  It’s not fair to our future husbands.  We can’t expect them to be perfect.  We can’t expect them to be able to take away all of our unhappiness and give us happiness, we can’t expect them to solve all of our problems.  They can’t.  They’re just men.  Just human beings like us. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have expectations.  We should.  But, we need to expect reality.  Not utopia. 

BUT, the good news is:  there is a utopia for us! 

God has Great Expectations for us too:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 

               The really good news is:  God actually can fill all of our voids.  He can help us with our bitterness.  He understands us, He’s always there for us to talk to, and He can give us a purpose in life.  In fact, He gave us our lives to begin with.  Without Him we wouldn’t even have life. 

Psa 62:5  My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

Pro 23:18  For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

Pro 24:14  So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great Expectations Part 1

I have some great expectations.  I have always, always, for as long as I can remember supposed that I would get married.  I believed that I was called to be a wife and mother.  I imagined that I would marry at the age of 19.  I would be done with high school by then.  I had no plans for college.  Why would I need to go to college?  I wouldn’t need a career because my husband would be our bread-winner.  My career would be “stay-at-home-mom.”  There are no courses to be taken in How to be a Good Wife,”  “Raising Children to Serve God 101,” “Homeschooling Your Children” or “Housekeeping for Dummies.”  Everything I needed to know I learned at home from my mother.  I learned to cook and clean.  I helped my little brothers and sisters with their school work.  I didn’t date because I knew that God would bring me my perfect match so why should I fool around with fate? 

                    My “great expectation” to be married at 19 did not happen.  Ok, so 19 is a little young.  I’ll concede that.  Then, I planned on getting married at 20… and then 21… and then 22… and so on.  It’s been quite a few years since 19.  But, I wonder what expectations we all have about our princes and marriage in general.  Here’s a couple of scenario’s for you.

                    It’s a beautiful summer day, the flowers are blooming and the sun is shining.  The time is late afternoon; you’re in your bright, sunny kitchen preparing dinner for your family.  The children are playing sweetly outside on the swing set, their laughter floats to you on the breeze that is whispering at the open window and dancing with the curtains.  You smile and hum to yourself as you chop home-grown vegetables and dump them into the frying pan..  Any moment your husband will walk in the door, he’ll toss the boys in the air and hug the girls.  But first, he’ll have a kiss for you.  When dinner is ready, you’ll all sit down to a wonderful candle-lit meal, served up on those adorable dishes you ordered from Crate and Barrel.  You’ll all laugh together as you talk about your day.  Later, after the children are bathed and tucked into bed with a story and a kiss, you and your husband sit outside under the stars, and just talk.  Just enjoy each other’s company…

                   We all have great expectations.  Reality is often another story.  Here’s another scenario.

                  It’s still a beautiful summer day, but you’re too tired and hot to notice.  The air conditioning is broken and you’ve spent the whole afternoon trying to fix it.  Frustrated, you finally give up and go inside.  The children are climbing the walls, crying, they just want your attention, but you don’t have time.  Your husband will be home any minute and you haven’t even thought about what to make for dinner.  You pop a video into the VCR (the DVD player is broken) and set the kids in front of the TV.   What to do for dinner?  There are no homegrown vegetables to glean from the garden, because there is no garden.  You’re not allowed to grow anything on your rental property.  The fridge is almost empty, you haven’t been to the grocery store yet this week, in fact you haven’t been out of the house at all because you only have one car and your husband takes it to work.  You grab a jar of Prego out of the cupboard (the last one) and a box of pasta.  Meatless spaghetti.  Again.  Your husband comes home from a long day at work.  He’s hoping to sit down to a steak dinner, but instead he gets a dirty house, crying kids, a cranky wife and meatless spaghetti.  Again.

Part 2 Coming Tomorrow....

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Freight Train

I can hear the trains rumbling through town, the wheels shrieking against the tracks as the cars slowly make their way past the old depot. Some of the cars are old, blue paint peeling and rust showing through. Others are newer, but marred by graffiti. “TOM” reads one and obscenities spoil another.

Not a beautiful sight.

It’s not a shiny, gorgous train like the ones you read about in stories or see in classic movies. You know, the ones where the gentleman and lady eat in the dining car and make eyes at each other quietly and inconspicuously over eggs.

But there is a kind of music to the clatter of the cars and the squeaks of the wheels. It is familiar, part of the soundtrack of this town, a track mingled with church bells and a quiet thrum of tires on the pavement. Children playing backyards and in the street, birds chirping from the telephone wires and trees.

And a rumble of the freight train as it comes into town.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake



2 (8oz) packages Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup White Sugar
1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
1 (9inch) Prepared Graham Cracker Crust (I didn't have a graham cracker crust so I used a regular crust and it worked o.k. I think a graham cracker crust would be better)
1/2 cup Pumpking Puree
1/2 t. Ground Cinnamon
1 pinch Ground Cloves
1 pinch Ground Nutmeg
1/2 cup Whipped Topping

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.

Blend in eggs one at a time.

Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended.

Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set.
(I doubled the recipe. It only makes one pie.)
Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.  Cover with whipped topping before serving.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Worry


There's a song I learned as a child, about Worry Warthog.

This African swine had a problem--he worried about everything--all day, everyday.

Part of the song goes like this: "If you want to look like me, just fear and dread and snort. And very soon, you'll break out with a great big worry wart!'

I used to think that was the funniest song as a kid. Who ever heard of getting a worry wart? I'd gotten other kinds of warts--but please, worrying doesn't give you warts.

No, it just keeps you from trusting God.

If you're anything like me, worrying is piece of cake to accomplish. I have an active imagination. I can envision the most terrible, horrible things happening. "What am I gonna do if I can't pay for school?? What if something happens to my family??? What if I get cancer?? What if our house burns down?? Oh no, we're all gonna diiiiiieeeeeeeee!!!!!"

Yes, I've thought each of those things before. It's amazing how something so seemingly harmless can take over your thoughts and actions so quickly. After all, worrying is one of those "white" sins, right? I mean you aren't killing someone, or holding up a convenience store.

So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that God says whatever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

When we worry, we are essentially telling God He's not trustworthy--He's not good and faithful. We are, in essence, telling God He lied to us. That when He promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and supply all of our needs, He didn't mean it. And we have to work it all out ourselves.

The wonderful news is, we don't have to work it all out ourselves. We don't have to worry, and fear. God is faithful. God is good. He won't leave or forsake us. And He will provide every need.

Colossions 3:16 instructs us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.

It's a very basic principle--what goes in, is what comes out. If we fill our mind with doubts and fears and focusing on the problem, worry will inevitably come forth, and spill over into our actions.

But, if we fill our minds with God's promises, and the proof of His goodness and faithfulness, guess what comes out?

My older sister Rebecca was a great example of this.

Believe it or not, my sister and I are naturally rather shy. We both had to work on overcoming this through the Lord. Becca was always tacking Bible verses, about confidence in the Lord, up in our bathroom. Every time I brushed my teeth, I read them. Guess what God used anytime I feared or struggled with timidity?

The verses I always saw in the bathroom.

Reading our Bible is vital. Memorizing our Bible is vital. But I believe along with these two, God's word should become something we surround ourselves with.

Place verses on God's faithfulness and promises in strategic places around the house. In your bathroom. In your bedroom (my mom sometimes puts them on index cards and tucks them into her bedroom mirror). Even in your car. Anyplace that you will see them everyday.

The Bible truly is sharper than any two-edged sword. The more we see it and dwell on it, the more it takes root in our hearts; and with His word, God enables us to trust, instead of worry.

Now, I realize that there's a difference between worry and concern. Concern is merely acknowledging that yes, there is a problem, and no, you can't fix it. Concern turns into worry when we start believing God can't fix it either.

I'll admit honestly that I struggle with worry sometimes. It's not always easy to trust, but it is always possible through the Lord, and it is always necessary.

God is faithful! We don't need to be like Worry Warthog--

Because God knows the plans He has for us, for good and not evil, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)

Because God never changes--He will always be God. (Malachi 3:6)

Because God will supply our every need (Philipians 4:19)

Because God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)

Because God's love for us endures forever (Psalm 136)

Because God is faithful in every generation (Psalm 89:1-2)

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

~Ira Stanphill

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quote for Wednesday


Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadows of Thy wings will I rejoice.

Psalm 63

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Do I Have to Scream?

Today we have a guest post, courtesy of Krista's younger sister Sam.  Thank you Sam for submitting this excellent article!  

  It was one of those awful days. Where the weather was cold, my future looked bleak, work had been full of screaming kids, and on top of all that I felt like I had no spiritual life whatsoever. For weeks on end, I hadn’t gotten anything out of my daily devotional, and I had no urge to read my Bible. I was tired of the “monotony” of my life, and tired of feeling so “blah”. So that night I had a good, long cry, but inside I was screaming.

The next morning, I went down to the basement to ride the exercise bike, still tired and grouchy. I turned on my ipod, shuffled through the songs, and clicked on the playlist that came from a mix cd Dad had just burned for me. It was a mix of his favorite Christian songs. When track number four came on, the lyrics immediately caught my attention. 


Does anybody know how I feel?

Sometimes I’m numb, sometimes I’m overcome

Does anybody care what’s going on?

Do I have to wear my scars like a badge on my arm

For you to see me, I need release


Do I have to scream for you to hear me?

Do I have to bleed for you to see me?

‘Cause I grieve, you’re not listening to me

Do I need to scream?


ZoeGirl’s song, “Scream”, said exactly what I had felt. I had screamed inwardly out to God, questioning His very existence. Questioning why He wasn’t near. I questioned, “Do I have to scream for God to hear me?”


Throughout the Psalms you can see the authors repeatedly crying out to God…in other words, screaming out to Him in their own way.

“How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long will Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day…” (Psalm 13:1&2)


“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? For from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but Thou does not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.” (Psalm 22:1&2)


Do I have to scream for God to hear me? I read the answer to my question in His Word over and over:


“For I hope in Thee, O Lord; Thou wilt answer, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:15)


“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)


And in very plain words, God spoke the following words to Joshua:

“No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Josh. 1:5)


I took those words to heart. “…I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

Right there, it says plainly that God will not forsake me. He will be with me.

I look at my past prayers, and see how many of them have been answered! How can I believe He doesn’t listen when He has proven to me time over time again that He does?

I know there will be many more times when I’ll feel that He isn’t there, but I know He has not forsaken me. As a daughter of the King, He hears me and will never forsake me. It is a very comforting thought, and so proves that I do not have to scream out for Him to hear me. He hears me every time I breathe a word. 


I’ve been marked, set apart

But I’m cut so deep and afraid of the dark

One drop of blood from the hole in Your hand

Is enough to heal me and make me stand


‘Cause I’m clean, He is listening to me


I don’t have to scream for Him to hear me

Don’t have to bleed for Him to see me

‘Cause I’m clean, He is listening to me

I don’t have to scream

I don’t have to bleed

‘Cause I’m clean, He is listening

And I don’t have to scream
-Sam Skinner

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Monday, November 3, 2008

A Bookish Disaster

My bedroom has been a disaster for some time. While I would disagree with anyone who were to tell me that I have too many books, I will admit that I have possibly too many for the space that I have. At the same time, adding books to my collections is addicting. There are so many books that I love and wish to have on my bookshelves for my own.

Still, the sorting out must be done. The sorting of books, papers, clothes and a million and one other things. And shoes, oh yes, shoes.

We won’t discuss my penchant for cute shoes.

It’s the sorting of the books that is the hardest. Many of the volumes are dear friends, some old and some new and as I organize I can’t help but stop and say hello to them. Peek into the pages of one and read a snippet here or there. Laugh a little with Lauren of Miss Match and cry a little with the March sisters. Some covers are tattered, the binding so worn that when you open the book, it falls open to one of my favorite sections. Others are new, their covers fresh and pages crisp. Someday those new ones will probably look like their older counterparts – worn from being read over and over and over again.
It’s hard to decide which ones should stay and which ones should go.

And so, I try to develop a system. I ask myself a series of questions:

1) Have I read it?

2) If not, will I ever read it?
If I have the feeling that I won’t ever read it, I put it in the giveaway pile.

If I have read it…

3) Did I like it at all?
If not, why on earth am I keeping it?!

4) Have I read this book multiple times?
If yes, then, there is a good chance that this one is a keeper.

5) Will I ever read it again?
If my reaction is at all, “Probably not” or “Um….” Then it goes in the giveaway pile.

Of course, it isn’t always so clear, cut and dry; there are always exceptions, particularly when it comes to reference books or classic children’s novels. In the end, I have fewer books than I did before, but not by any significant amount. It’s an ongoing process, right? One step at a time.

Although I do have a little free space on my shelves for new books now. Hm…book shopping, anyone? I know some great thrift stores that have a decent selection of used books! And there’s always my favorite place for book browsing: the Book Barn. If you’re a Bibliophile and happen to ever find yourself in Niatic, CT, you will want to make a point of stopping for several hours. It’s a Bibliophile’s paradise!

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