Monthly Archives: January 2012

Why I Love Dirt

An unseasonably warm, early January day found me and my 3-foot, crazy-haired sidekick with plastic shovels and dump truck in tow heading toward the mole hills that always seem to infest our yard for our son’s pleasure. I never mind joining him when he wants to dig in the dirt; it’s been something that’s brought me joy since childhood as well.

We sat on the ground – crushed, brown leaves clinging to our clothes – breaking up clumps of dirt and working together to fill the shovels so that we could, in turn, fill the dump truck.

As we sat in contentment, running the dirt through our hands, with nothing more than talk of what dirt’s uses included, I began to ask myself why? Why do I find this so soothing? Why am I drawn to digging up earthworms and getting dirt under my fingernails?

Meanwhile, the coolness of the earth between my fingers brought my attention back to the vision before me. Many would see a handful of dirt. Something that would require immediate use of a broom and a wastebasket if it found its way onto my floor. Yet here, it was simple yet beautiful, resting in the palm of my hand.

Sure it was cluttered with twigs and various other particles from the ground, but the rich, brown soil rested contentedly in my hand, awaiting whatever fate I chose for it.

It’s crazy to think that this is the physical ingredient that God used to create man.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Gen. 2:7

No wonder I’m drawn to this simple, oft trampled and despised, part of creation. God chose to do something great with dirt. He chose to make it the very thing that begins life. He also knew how we humans would need visual reminders of who we are in His eyes. Not dirt in a filthy way, but soil that can be formed into clay, and in the right hands, His hands, become fashioned into vessels that house His power.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. ~2 Corinthians 4:7-12

So now I know. I love dirt because it’s who I am. Simple, often cluttered, yet pliable. Thankfully I’m always in my Father’s hand either being shaped into a beautiful vessel or receiving shelter from the attacks of life. Come what may, I can rest in the fact that God chose to make me out of something as simple as a pile of dirt to shine His beautiful light to the rest of the world.

Meditation Mondays – The Faithful One Will Do It

Nine days into the new year, the reality of challenges that come with new goals or resolutions begins to become obvious. Goals can sound incredibly glamorous on the planning side, but the execution requires hard work and dedication. (You Biggest Loser fans no doubt caught my reference to Dolvett’s mantra.)

I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage those of you who are memorizing scripture along with me. I know it’s not easy, but thankfully, we don’t have to do it on our own. One of the freeing promises God gives us in the Bible is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “Faithful is He who calleth you, who also will do it.” He’ll do the work. The pressure’s off us. We must simply submit ourselves to Him, and He will consume our lives, thus empowering us to get His job done.

Each Monday on this blog, I choose a focus verse for the week. I love that God really does have an answer for everything in His Word, and I would never have started the work of this online ministry without Him, so I find it only fitting to consciously keep things around here centered and focused on the wisdom and promises He lays out for us in the Bible.

Having said all of that, I would also like to share some tips that I’ve learned in the last year as I started consistently memorizing scripture as an adult. It’s a much different experience for me than it was as a child. I don’t know about you, but that sponge that soaked up everything as a kid is pretty saturated after a few decade’s worth of information.

  1. Write your verse out. Hand writing the verse at least once does something for me. I always write it on an index card and put it somewhere I’ll see it frequently throughout the day.
  2. Choose your verses wisely. There are times when God clearly says, “Memorize this verse next!” Obviously, don’t mess with that prodding. However, there have been times when I chose a passage because I believed it would be good for me. I mean, when is the Word of God not going to be good for me? I began to realize that I kept trying to memorize verses that contained lots of lists. While doing this once or twice not back-to-back is fine for me, I’ve found that these verses don’t stay in my memory long-term.
  3. One great resource that I’ve not really tried before but plan to begin implementing is scripturetyper.com. This website allows you to set up a free account where you can type out your verses. It’s a great way to use multiple modes of learning to help it stay in your mind for a long time. When you start to get the hang of your verse, it removes some of the words from the verse to see if you can type part of it from memory. When you think you’ve mastered it, you can move on to typing it all out without any word prompts. It seems like a really effective way to memorize the Word, and if you choose to set up an account, you’ll have a personal record of all the verses you’ve memorized.
  4. Remember quality is more important than quantity. I realize that some people memorize easily and can remember it forever. I’ve also learned some stats about the human brain and memory through my time in education, and the vast majority of us will memorize for the long-term if we don’t cram a ton of information in our heads all of the time. You aren’t going to receive a gold star for memorizing an entire chapter in a month. You also aren’t going to remember the entire chapter for the rest of your life, more than likely. Let this girl who’s learned things the hard way tell you something very important. Slow down! Enjoy God’s Word. Learn to meditate on the Words you’re committing to memory and live them out. It’s not about the length of the verses or the number of verses you’ve memorized by December 31st. I’m still being challenged and encouraged by other verses besides my monthly memory verse, but I’ve learned from several wise believers that it’s important to be purposeful about this scripture memory thing.
  5. If you choose a verse that turns out to be simple to memorize in a couple of weeks, go ahead and pick another one! You do want to challenge your brain, and if you find that you’re ready to move on, do it!

I’m so excited for those of you who have already joined in this scripture memory journey with me! If you’re interested in joining, it’s not too late! I set up a Facebook group for all of us to post our verses in so that we can stay accountable and encouraged. If you’re not already a member of the group, please click on the link and request to join. If that doesn’t work for some reason, please let me know so I can add you.

Most importantly, remember, He who has called you will be faithful to do the work through you!

My 12 Books to Read in 2012

Welcome to the first edition of my book list for the upcoming year!

My friend Jen gave me the idea that she got from Money Saving Mom to read 12 books in 2012. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve lost that beautiful relationship with reading books that I used to cherish so much. I read blogs, news articles, and all kinds of random factoids online all of the time, but there is just something about holding a book in my hand without any distractions that I miss.

This year, it’s my hope to read more than 12 books, but I’m keeping my goal set to one book per month. Some of the ones I’ve chosen are kind of heavy, and one of them is probably going to take me an entire year to read, so I’m doing my best to not set myself up for failure. I’ve also decided to go with six non-fiction and six fiction. Here’s my list, but I would love recommendations!

Here are my non-fiction book choices:

1. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic I’m so excited to give this book a read! I’ve heard nothing but good things from several moms of young children. It’s written by a mother of young children.

2. Getting the Gospel Right: A Balanced View of Calvinism and Arminianism by C. Gordon Olson Yeah, here’s my far-from-light reading for the year. I’ve heard it’s something every believer should having in his/her library. I’ve also heard that it’s NOT an easy read from everybody I know that’s read it…or should I say owns it. I only know one person who’s finished it. However, it discusses an issue that causes such division amongst believers, and I look forward to using it as a resource in compiling my own statement of faith.

3. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. Honestly, I’ve put off reading this one because I know it’s going to imply I might need to stop doing, and I really prefer “doing.”

4. Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It’s highly possible that I’m one of 5 people who frequents a Christian bookstore and has not read this book.

5. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I’ve always wanted to give this book a try, so now’s my chance.

6. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I do believe that I am the only blogger who has not yet read this book. I greatly enjoy Ann’s blog, and from what I’ve read in other bloggers’ posts about the book or that were inspired by the book, I am really looking forward to reading this one!

My Fiction List. So here’s the deal. I’m really weird in my view and preferences for fiction books. I hate reading anything that does not have a happy ending. I read mostly nonfiction, so when I snuggle up with a fiction book, I want a break from thinking so that I can just escape the reality of this world for a while. I really enjoy a good mystery book! I also like some chick-flick type books, but lots of them just drive me bananas, and I stop reading. I prefer Christian fiction because so many other books are just trashy, but I get annoyed when Christian fiction books get too “preachy.”

Having said all of that, I would love to hear any of your recommendations for fiction books that may possibly fit into those parameters. I chose the follow six books by hitting up my friend Ashley’s blog where she reviews books. Thanks, Ashley for giving me a starting point!

7. Pieces of Silver by Maureen Lang

8. Love on the Line by Deanne Gist

9. House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson

10. Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon

11. Stars Collide by Janice Thompson

12. Water’s Edge by Robert Whitlow

What are you reading? Or what do you think I should read? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

My Goals for 2012

One of the reasons I believe that I struggled with feeling average and ineffective for so many years is the fact that I wasn’t a goal setter. I know that many people cringe at the thought of not writing down to-do lists or a five year plan, but that’s just never been something that comes naturally to me.

I’d make mental goals, but something always seemed to keep me from writing them down, and heaven knows I wouldn’t even think of sharing them with others. I’ve been in the blogging world long enough to understand that I am in the minority with this group. I’ve read so many posts about goals and lists that I just don’t know what to make of it all sometimes. Again, it’s not natural for me.

This year, however, God’s shown me that there is a real value to writing out some of my goals instead of keeping them in my head. I think it’s because they don’t stay in my memory the older I get. Nothing seems to stick in there anymore. 🙂

I’ve heard the statistics of written goals becoming a reality far more frequently than mentally noted ones, and I’ve even sat through I can’t even remember how many professional development seminars on SMART goals in my teaching days. I get it already. I guess the rebel in me just doesn’t like to succumb to such things.

But I will submit to God’s Word. As I’ve actually allowed myself to talk to God about this area of my life, He’s reminded me of a verse I memorized in my teen years.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18

So as I approached this new year, I realized it was time to step out of the rut I so often find myself in because I’m too intimidated to make my goals known. I’m not about to begin micromanaging every area of my life. I’ve lived enough to learn that I can’t control so many things that will happen, and I just have to be flexible enough to let go of agendas some days. At the same time, I know that God has placed goals on my heart to live out, and I want to move past my fears and insecurities to accomplish His plans for my life. So here are some of the attainable goals I’ve set for this year. With God’s help, it will be one of incredible growth for me.

Self Improvement

  • Get up at 6:30 on weekday mornings. I so need that time to have quality time with God instead of interrupted-every-three-seconds time with God. My days always go a million times better if I’m up and around before Dash.
  • Establish post-Dash bedtime goals for each week. I know I could accomplish something worthwhile, be more purposeful in my blogging, read more books, and even take on hobbies if I just made a simple list at the beginning of the week.
  • Memorize at least one verse per month. Will you join me if you haven’t already?
  • Read at least 12 books from cover to cover this year. I’ve lost the special relationship with reading I used to have as years have passed, and I want it back! I’ve made a list, but I’m open to suggestions!

Ministering

  • Have friends over at least once a month for dinner.
  • Choose one friend a month to whom I can give extra attention. Pray for her daily, mail a card, and look for extra ways to bless her.

Miscellaneous

  • Establish one date night a month! (Thank goodness for gift cards as Christmas gifts!)
  • Renovate my kitchen.
  • Establish a cleaning schedule. Actually get one in writing this time so I will not forget or lose track of what I intended to do on certain days.

Writing

  • Establish a writing schedule for both my mommy blog and this one. I constantly struggle to find time for this because I don’t want to lose focus of my family and home. Oh, the balance issue that haunts us all. 🙂
  • Begin working on my book. Making this goal public scares me to death! God has without a doubt called me to write a book to young ladies on overcoming fear. (Haha. Yes, I do see the irony of the last two sentences.) I’ve been waiting on His timing, but I also would be remiss to not admit that the thought itself intimidates me. It requires me to revisit a lot of old battle wounds, so it’s not going to be an easy task. Yet I’m also excited to just start getting it all out there on paper instead of jumbled in my head.

So there you have it. It’s in writing now, and it’s public knowledge to boot. I guess I’d better get busy. Are you a goal setter? What are some of yours for this year?

 

 

Meditation Mondays – An Invitation

A year ago, I did something new for me. I set a goal for the new year when one of my friends invited me to join her in the Siesta Scripture Memory Team on Beth Moore’s blog. The commitment was to memorize two scriptures per month for the next year.

Growing up in a Christian home, I was pretty sure I’d already memorized all of the “important” verses of the Bible, but God humbled me pretty quickly on that notion. I began to think about the vast number of promises, instructions, and challenges that are contained in the pages of God’s Holy Word. I also felt ashamed when I thought back to the last time I’d made a real effort to commit a verse to memory. Oh, I’d posted a verse on my bathroom mirror here and there, or recalled verses I’d memorized in the past, but the last time that I could remember really putting effort into memorizing a Bible verse was when it counted for a grade in college.

So, I did it. I bough a spiral note card book and got to work. Did I flawlessly memorize every verse word-for-word? Honestly, no. But I did see a dramatic shift in more aspects of my life than I would have ever believed possible. I began listening to sermons more intently to find verses that resonated so I could memorize them. I started taking notes when doing my personal devotions. For the first time, I really started to comprehend what it meant to truly meditate on God’s Word. I could continue writing about how dramatically this act changed my perspective and well-being for the better for much longer, but I want to save time to issue my challenge to you. Please hear me out!

I know all of the excuses that we human beings have as to why we “can’t” do it. We’re SO busy. We never were that good at memorizing things. We won’t get it perfect. We need to get through our current season of life and THEN we’ll get to it. We don’t want to make another resolution we will probably not fulfill. This whole scripture memory thing is not for average people like me. I read my Bible; that’s enough.

I’ve either heard or believed each of these excuses more than one time. But the fact is, once I finally took a risk and made it a priority in my life, God began blessing my life. No, this past year was not flawless. In fact, some of my most challenging times came over the course of the past twelve months, yet I did not feel nearly as desperate, alone, offended, or upset as I used to. My circumstances haven’t changed, but my heart has, and I have faith that God will see me through the trials ahead because I’ve become more intimately aware of His promises and instructions.

Will you take on this challenge to memorize God’s Word this year? I have been praying for months now that more people will join me on this journey to truly knowing God’s Word as we journey through 2012. Let me also challenge you to not take this challenge on silently. Accountability is crucial. Something as big as memorizing God’s Word will come with strong opposition from Satan, and you will be tempted to give it up and add another excuse as to why you can’t do it to your already lengthy list. Don’t be intimidated to make your decision known. God will bless you and empower you to accomplish the task at hand.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do.

1. Pick a verse to memorize during the month of January. I’m just going with one verse to memorize per month this year.

2. Write the verse down and put it somewhere you will see it regularly. My dear friend Jen wrote a great post here giving several ideas of places to display scripture throughout your home.

3. Go to my Facebook page and add your verse to the wall. One of the things that I loved about adding my verse to the online accountability group I participated in last year was looking through all of scriptures that women were meditating on. It always blessed my heart to see God’s Word displayed in that way. Plus, it sometimes gave me an idea for a verse to memorize in the future more than once. (P.S. If you don’t already like my page, you should take a second to do it so you can keep up with the others who will be memorizing verses alongside us this year!)

4. Memorize it! Meditate on it. Apply it to your current life’s situations. Feel the power of the Holy Spirit take over. You will most probably feel conviction at different times, but I promise if you work through it all with God that you will find a peace that will blow you away.

I need accountability this year. Will you please join me? Next Monday, I’ll share some more tips I’ve learned about choosing and memorizing verses successfully, but in the meantime, get busy choosing this month’s verse!

Here’s mine!

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.
~Isaiah 43:19