Monthly Archives: January 2012

Meditation Mondays: God’s Command for Moving Forward

Last week, I shared a little about the fact that my family and I are in the midst of many changes and even more possible changes. It’s an interesting place to be, the transitional phase. Just this side of moving forward. Still unsure of exactly what we will and will not be doing.

As a new month approaches this week, I have been asking God about what verses He would have me commit to memory in February. Today I happened upon a link one of my friends shared on Facebook about parenting advice. I clicked on it because, well, it’s been a week of testing for me in that department. It referenced a familiar passage in Deuteronomy I’ve heard just shy of a million times about purposeful parenting, but gave a great perspective I hadn’t considered before. I really encourage any parent to check it out here.

This article led me to go back and read the verses leading up to the passage with which I was familiar to put it all in context. While I did that, God showed me so much more about how this passage of scripture is written for my life right now.

The Israelites are on the verge of entering their Promised Land. They know all too well the stories of captivity that had originated this grueling journey. They watched their parents die in the wilderness, waiting for the day when it would all be worth it. The day when they would cross that river that separated them from God’s appointed home for them so they could at long last dig their toes into the blessed soil and breathe in the fresh air of blessings.

I can relate with them on some levels right now. The journey through the wilderness of waiting has been a lot longer in my head than it has been in reality, but I can appreciate the power of anticipation. I can also empathize with the trepidation they felt when they realized how scary it can be to come out of that familiar land of waiting. As bleak as the wilderness of waiting can be at times, there is still some level of comfort that forms with its familiarity. While I don’t love dwelling there, it’s not scary like the unknown can be.

As I read through the first verses of Deuteronomy 6, I found myself standing at the Jordan River, just like those wary Israelites, getting my first glimpse of the Promised Land. Wanting so badly to forge through the river to arrive at long last while feeling so completely unprepared.


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God knows how unprepared I truly am on my own, so He laid out careful instructions.

Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’
~Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 25

As I move forward, I must never forget the God who brought me out of captivity, strengthened me in the wilderness of waiting, and called me to a special purpose. I pray so fervently that I do not lose sight of His goodness nor neglect His commands.

Five Minute Fridays: Tender

I love today’s Five Minute Friday prompt. It could not think of a better word to describe my feelings for the week. Lucky for you I had a five minute time limit to write about all the ways I feel tender this week, for I’ve a feeling I could have kept going for quite a while!

 

If you have five minutes today, let me encourage you to join The Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday community. It really is a beautiful thing.

Word: Tender

Go

I feel tenderness in the small things of this week.

The way my son chooses to shift from calling me Mama to Mommy. I love it. But it means he really is maturing. Even as I listen to him say it, I can tell the determined focus it takes for him to say my name in this new way. And I realize how aware he is.

I watch his daddy and him take out pool noodles in the middle of the aisle in Target and duke it out. I laugh. And I think ahead to the years we have in front of us and realize that he will all too soon be just as tall as Daddy and give that man who can scoop him up without a second thought right now a run for his money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I watch him in his new AWANA class having snack with his little friends. I see those cute two year old girls adore him and try feeding him Oreos while he takes it all in stride. I picture him grown up in body while young and insecure inside as he tries to make sense in his teenage mind of the mysteries of women. And I want to hold him tighter yet never stop watching him bask in the new fun he’s finding in church.

I listen to how he says “God made me. And He said that it was good.” Our AWANA prompt of the week. And I hold back tears as I realize this applies to me. With my winter-rough skin and disheveled hair. With my sweat pants and stained t shirts. God finds me good. Perfect. In his image. And I thank him humbly. I must believe it for myself if I am going to preach earnestly to the masterpiece God has entrusted to my care.

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Sometimes It’s Just Not Okay to Wait

I’m in the middle of a transitional period in my life. I’ve been waiting on God for quite a while in several areas, and now that it is becoming evident that He is moving me, I’m finding that it’s not always easy.

While I am incredibly grateful for the work God is doing in my life, my humanness is still trying to get in the way. Waiting is hard, especially when there were times that everything except my age, bill due dates, and the energetic demands of my son seemed to be on hold. But I have found God in the waiting in a way I would have never comprehended Him if I were zipping along through life.

At the same time, now that it’s time to take action, I find myself trying to cling to the comforts of waiting. Some of these calls to action require me to stretch beyond my limits into a realm that intimidates and exhausts me. I just can’t do it on my own, and I know that’s how it should be. This knowledge doesn’t bring about a miraculous desire to reach beyond what I see. It makes me want to wait until tomorrow, or sometime in the distant future, to start pursuing it.

Quitter author, Jon Acuff, posed a question in one of his blog posts about soundtracks that fit our dreams. In the area of my dream of writing, the area that my feeble fingers and weak heart prefer to keep pushing off into the distant future when I’m older and wiser, I keep coming back to Mandisa’s hit song, “Waiting for Tomorrow.”

This song fits this area (and maybe a few others) of my life perfectly. Ecclesiastes drives home the point that there are seasons for everything, but when it comes to proclaiming God’s goodness, and fulfilling His plan when He gives us the green light, we have to be willing to take action.

 

Meditation Mondays: Accountability

I opened my eyes from a quick prayer asking God to reveal something powerful to me from His Word that morning. Then I flipped to the Proverb of the day, chapter 18, and stopped after the first two verses.

When I asked God to reveal what I needed to learn, this was not the direction I envisioned Him taking this, but I heard Him loud and clear. I read the verses another 10 times, each time hearing God say, “This is what I want you to remember today!”

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.
A fool has no delight in understanding, 
But in expressing his own heart.
   ~Proverbs 18:1-2

But I like people!” I insisted with God. “What are you trying to tell me?”

The more I thought, the more I realized my tendency to keep to myself when I’m struggling or when I make a goal. It’s easier for me not to “bother” people with my problems or to feel less adequate because I’m “just now” getting around to setting a goal. I argue that I’m doing them a favor.

Eventually, I’ll open up in a blog post or to a trusted friend, but the entire time I’m sharing, I feel guilty. I want to just stop talking and hide on an island somewhere. (Preferably a tropical one with a constant food supply plus an umbrella, chair, and stack of good books.)


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But this isn’t God’s plan. He blatantly stated that I should not isolate myself. It’s selfish, He says!

He wants me to seek the counsel of others. Thankfully, He emphasizes throughout the Bible the importance of choosing Godly people to give counsel, so I don’t have to go spill out my life’s struggles to every random person I meet, but I must go out of my comfort zone and share my heart with those I love and trust. I need them to encourage and motivate me to press on or see where I need to change. I need them to hear and love the ugly side of me, too. I need them to give me a fresh perspective.

I love the second verse’s instructions as well. When I do share my struggles with someone, I must go into it wanting to do more than just vent my feelings. I must go into it with a desire to better understand what I need to learn from the circumstances.

These are the verses God won’t let me stop meditating on this week. What about you? Also, it’s not too late to join in with my friends and me as we memorize at least one Bible verse per month for this year! Check out this post for more details.

 

Covering Dirt’s Dirtiness + Giveaway Winner!

I believe that dirt is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. I know; it’s kind of weird and mind boggling, but ever since God revealed to me the beauty that can come from the earth, I love it that much more.

There are some things about dirt that I just can’t get around disliking, however. Like the way it can soil perfectly good clothes just before I’m ready to go somewhere, how it can leave messy tracks on my floor when it sticks to a certain little guy’s feet, or the way it stubbornly shows its ugly side when it takes up residence under fingernails. There’s something different about it then. Instead of it being the natural life-holder that it’s meant to be, it has become dirty.

Dirty is something entirely different. Dirty brings about judgment, tarnishes that which was clean. This thing, dirt, that is meant to carry on and nourish life takes on a new role when it tries to be the main attraction. Dirt isn’t meant to be the main attraction. It is at its best when it’s under cover.

While it is the primary ingredient to these earthen vessels we call our bodies, it is not the thing we notice or even acknowledge until faced with death’s reality.

In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
 Till you return to the ground,
 For out of it you were taken;
 For dust you are,
 And to dust you shall return.
~Genesis 3:19

In spite of this ugly picture we paint of dirt and death, isn’t there still a greater, more fascinating reality of how ideal death and dirt can be?

Death to self is what God expects from us.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
~Romans 6:8,11

When dirt starts to move past its parameters, attempting to be the thing people see rather than the raw base of the beautiful vessel housing Christ, then its seen for the dirty thing it is on its own.

Yet grace comes down when we are at our dirtiest and covers the sin. I witnessed it happening in the form of snow on the very spot I had dug up dirt in my yard just a week prior.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “ Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” ~Isaiah 1:18

Grace covers the dirtiness just as snow does the earth in winter, as lush grass does in spring, and autumn leaves do when the winds of change come yet again. He paints the vessel to become an awe-inspiring work of art. He brings out the joy in dying to self so that He may radiate His powerful love for us so we may, in turn, pour it out on others.

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Congratulations to the winner of the book Dancing on my Ashes: Michelle M!

I hope you will be blessed by the book as much as I have been. I have already contacted you, so be sure to respond within the next 24 hours to claim your prize!

4 Things That Changed My Marriage

Don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway I announced in Monday’s post! It’s open through tomorrow!

As my husband and I head toward our sixth anniversary this summer, we are amazed at how little we knew about what marriage really meant when we committed our lives to each other on that hot July day. We went through premarital counseling, talked to other married people, read books and Bible verses about marriage, and discussed every topic we could think of before we were married. I think we both went into it pretty confident that we were prepared.

But there’s a funny thing about life and human tendencies, however. In my experience, no matter how much I work to be prepared (and believe me, I LOVE to be prepared), there are just some things I have to do to understand the experts, books, and lists.

I’m fully convinced that knowing and understanding are two different things.

This girl had a lot to learn about understanding and wisely applying these principles. Five and a half years later, I can look back and see how much God has blessed our marriage when we started swallowing our pride and expectations while doing our best to live out these things. It’s funny. As I asked my man for his list of ideas before starting this post, he listed almost exactly the same things.

1. It’s really not your job to change/improve each other. Regardless of how many times you hear trite phrases that insist you need to train the man to eat or dress how you want him to, do whatever list of chores you want, or say what you want him to say, do not buy into it! Perhaps you have a far more serious agenda for your man, but even then, you can’t make him be something he doesn’t want to be. It won’t be genuine, and if it doesn’t show up immediately, you can guarantee that your efforts will eventually lead to a resentful backlash.

My husband and I both had a list of expectations for each other that only led us to frustration. The tool that helped me start to gain a healthy perspective was the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. This was when the light bulb went off in my head that helped me see how to pray for my husband without ulterior motives. It also took a ton of pressure off me to make everything work by myself. (The link below is my affiliate link. Click here to see my disclosure.)

2. Communicate with honesty and in love. This was one that both my husband and I agreed was a game changer in our marriage. We struggled early in our marriage in the area of communication because we had two very different approaches, both of which had flaws the other couldn’t stand. Over time and with a ton of prayer, we’ve come to a place where we understand how important it is to go into a conversation with the mindset of putting the other first, baring our hurt feelings or concerns with honesty, but most importantly determining to resolve our problem without trying to prove ourselves to be right while pointing fingers at each other. We’ve both learned and have grown more comfortable with staying silent until we’re both ready to communicate in this way.

3. Minister together. This one was something that my husband asked I include in my list, and I love him for seeing it as the valuable asset to our marriage that it is. I know that our marriage is better for the ways we’ve combined our efforts and passions to reach out to others. We are not at all the same in our approach and execution of activities, but we’ve both become more well-rounded and aware of other perspectives by working together to serve others.

We also have separate ministries, but it’s because we’ve made it a priority to work together on at least one ministry, we both find ourselves sharing our separate ministries with each other. This post (and many others) would not be the same without his input!

4. Don’t stop dating! Regardless of where you are in your marriage, this will be a challenge if you don’t determine to make it a priority. Jobs, ministry, chores, friends, kids – they all vie for our attention. Meanwhile, as your interests and priorities change throughout life, it can be scary for your marriage if you put off dating your spouse until you find time or money to do it like you used to. The fact is, it’s never going to be the same, but that’s not a bad thing!

It’s unbelievable what a difference a date makes in changing our moods and perspective for the better. Never let anything be an excuse to stop dating. There are tons of idea resources if you need to plan cheap date nights at home. Here‘s one that has some ideas I’ve used (You need to scroll down to see the list of date night ideas.)

There are so many things that have enriched our marriage, but when I look at each of them, they contain common themes of dying to self, working hard, and choosing unconditional love and forgiveness. I know that every relationship is different, and you wise women reading this have some great ideas for maintaining a happy marriage. Would you care to share them in the comments? I’d love to hear them, and chances are, someone else would, too!

I was inspired to share this post because I’ve had the privilege this month of participating in the 31 Days to Pray for Your Spouse Challenge. Won’t you take a minute and pray for your spouse today?


Meditation Mondays: Finding Joy + A Giveaway

Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
 For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning.
~Psalm 30: 4-5

Have you ever been in that place where you know God is there, but you just can’t feel Him? You know what the Bible says about your current difficult circumstance, yet the power of His truths just seems to fall flat in your head when you’d rather they nourish your parched soul? I know I have!

Making sense of God, life, and difficult circumstances can be a lonely, painful journey. Finding joy can seem impossible when we’re in the midst of what seems like a never-ending night. Thank God for promises such as the ones through Psalm 30 that remind us we are not alone. The night will end.

I recently read a book that touched and encouraged my heart in more ways than I can begin to explain in one blog post. Dancing on my Ashes is the story of two sisters, Heather Gilion and Holly Snell, who grew up watching God perform miracles and reveal His blessings only to lose their dreams for their lives overnight with the sudden, tragic death of their husbands.

They share their story of how they both struggled and found peace with God in such a way that anyone who reads it will undoubtedly find a connection. Even if you haven’t been through tragedies similar to theirs, you will find yourself relating with them as they candidly share their hearts.

God really used this book to speak to me in unexpected ways. I had been specifically praying about what to do in a certain area of my life, and by the scriptures and experiences shared throughout this book, I heard Him answer me loud and clear. I decided as I read the book that I am probably not the only one out there searching for encouragement, so that’s why I decided to share it with someone else.

I am excited to announce that I’m giving a copy of it away! Here is how you can enter to win!

1. Leave a comment. It doesn’t have to be anything profound or specific. Just a comment. Perhaps about some way that God has spoken to you when you’ve been in the “night” waiting for the morning. Also be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if win. (If you’re uncomfortable sharing your email address in public comments, go ahead and comment as normal only without the email address then email me at {1exceptionallyavgeragegirl@gmail.com} to tell me which entries you left comments for.)

2. Subscribe to my blog via RSS feed or email subscription (Go to the homepage and add your email address in the right sidebar.) This is a change from my original post. Google Friend Connect is not working anymore, so if you subscribe in some way, that will count instead of the original public follow option. Be sure to leave a comment with your email address to tell me if you do!

3. Like my Facebook page by either clicking the “like” button in the box to the right when you’re on the home page or by going to this link and clicking “like.” Be sure to leave a comment with your email address to tell me if you do!

4. Share the link to this post on Facebook. Be sure to leave a comment with your email address to tell me if you do!

5. Tweet about this giveaway. Be sure to leave a comment with your email address to tell me if you do!

You have as many as 5 chances to win, but if you can’t take the suspense and would like to purchase your own copy of Dancing on my Ashes, you can find it at Amazon.com. The link below is my referral link. Click here to see my disclosure policy.

This giveaway is open until midnight Thursday, January 19th and is only open to residents of the US. Winners will be selected by taking the list of comments and entering them into Random.org. Please be sure to include a valid email address for me to contact you in the event that you win. If I am unable to reach you within 24 hours, I will select a new winner via Random.org.