You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth

Well friends, it seems that my technical issues have passed, for the time being. While I’m still mourning the loss of all your lovely comments from the past year and a half, I’m very excited that this new commenting system will make it much easier to leave comments! 
Now, onto today’s post. InCourage sent me this brand new book to read and review: 
Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 

About the Book

In “You’re Already Amazing,” Holley Gerth seeks to encourage and equip Christian women to embrace who God made them, and discover how they can best live out His purpose for their lives. Each chapter is packed with practical self-assessments, checklists, and graphs to help you determine your strengths, skills, the who and how your skills enable you to serve, your approach to emotions, your emotional style, determining “safe people” in our lives, your social strengths, and so much more. Holley blends scriptural encouragement with practical application in every chapter.

What I liked

Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 
First of all, this book is beautiful. The cover design, page design, font choices, layouts, everything is beautifully detailed. 
I LOVE self-assessment quizzes, whether it’s determining which Disney princess I am or categorizing my personality traits, so I enjoyed the five minute assessment sections scattered throughout the chapters. Being able to stop and apply each section was very helpful. Also, these assessments weren’t the popular spiritual gift tests that I’d taken before; they were definitely unique. 
When reading the “How Do I Connect?” chapter, I felt like I was discovering the missing puzzle pieces that made sense of how I respond to different people and social situations. The chapter, “Who’s With Me?” brought to light some of the reasons I struggle with making and maintaining friendships. Chapter 3 illuminated some of the lies I’ve long believed about myself, but the exercise of writing them out and then actually writing out the scripture to counter them was powerful. Chapter 4 encouraged me to stop stressing out so much about certain areas of my life, and realize that just like God took the Israelites on a 40 year detour, He has a reason for keeping me “encamped.” 
I think chapter 10, “Is It Okay to Take Care of Myself?” will hit home with many women. Here’s a quote I highlighted in the book: 

When you give to a charity or another organization, it’s a good choice. But it’s still a withdrawal from your bank account. If you endlessly gave without replacing those funds, you’d end up banrupt. You wouldn’t be able to to give to the charity any longer or cover the needs in your life. That’s a lot like how our hearts work too. Even Jesus took time away to be renewed. It’s not selfish to make a deposit in your emotional bank account. It’s an investment that you’ll be able to use to bless someone later.

I also appreciated the “Do What You Can Plan” idea from chapter 9. Instead of feeling like we need to work out an hour every day, Holley encourages doing what you can every day, even if some days it’s only 10 minutes. Exercise is just one example of how creating a “Do What You Can Plan” could work. 

What I Didn’t Like So Much

The title. It sounds very self-esteem focused and self-help-y. But in the book, Holley makes it clear that we’re not amazing in and of ourselves: 

We’re amazing not because of who we are but because of who lives within us (pg. 127).  

You’re already amazing because God made you, formed you , and lives within you. You’re amazing because you belong to him, because he has a plan for your life, because with him there’s nothing you can’t do (pg. 192). 

I think the title could put off some people, and that’s unfortunate. I wish the subtitle said something like, “You’re Already Amazing- But It’s Not You, It’s Him,” or something to that effect.

In chapter 8, Holley talks about the law and grace. Her overall points are good, but I felt like she took some liberties by claiming that the expectations we feel are the same as the OT law. And when she decided to study scripture to see what God required of her, “I pulled out my journal again, ready for a long list, But a quick look at my concordance and trip over to Micah 6:8 stunned me with it’s simplicity: “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Period. End of story. No long list of rules. No endless expectations. It’s all there in one verse. And it’s all about relationships.”

Well, while using a concordance to search for the exact phrase “what God requires of you” will take you to one verse, Micah 6:8, that’s really not very accurate. While it’s nice to say that the Old Testament is full of laws, and now we’re not under the old law but under grace so all we have to do is love, there are actually a lot of commands in the New Testament. Yes, there are still rules. And it is a pretty long list, somewhere between 613 and 1,500, depending on who you quote. It’s true that many of those commands deal with relationships and HOW to love others, but nevertheless, God definitely still holds his people to a standard.

My Verdict

Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I don’t know that I would recommend it to my highschooler girls or a new believer, but I think mature believers, especially women in the ministry, will really benefit from it. The issues I had were really minor compared to the blessing I received from reading the book.

Want to find out more? Read the reviews over at the incourage deals page.

And just so you know, the book is on sale for $9.00 (regularly $13.99) from DaySpring. While you’re there, check out the rest of Holley’s collection. As added incentive: 25% off Holley Gerth Collection with code HOLLEYG25!

Holley Gerth - Perfectly Loved - Christian Mug image 
I received this book free of charge, and my opinion is my own. This post contains affiliate links: for more information see the disclosure at the bottom of this site. 

Have you ever wondered how your strengths, skills, personality, and passions could work together for a specific purpose? What has God used in your life to teach you about the way He made you? I’d love to read your story in the comments!

Across the Border: Days 7,8

This post contains my best pictures from the week. For more about what I did in Mexico, see Days 1-4 and Days 5,6.

Day Seven-Friday

Today was our fun day! After a pancake breakfast, we went downtown to shop.

This guy paints tiny scenes on sea shells. We bought one for a unique souvenir.

Scores of little children followed us everywhere, chanting “One dollar, un dolar,” asking us to buy their bracelets. They targeted me especially, because I have a nice-lady look about me. They also asked me to buy them food, and no matter how many times I told them “No, gracias,” they never left me alone. But before we left, we gave them all tracts and they hugged me good-bye!  

Look at that mega bag of cheetos!

After shopping we played volleyball before heading to the beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Pelicans

Me and Brian

The water was freezing cold, and after getting in, I couldn’t get warm again. I didn’t stay until dark like everyone else as a result, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the time I was there.

We ended the week with a bonfire, singing, and testimonies. It was a pleasure to hear the stories from the week and hear how God worked in everyone’s lives.

Day Eight- Trip Home
4 a.m. Rise and shine! We dressed, finished packing, ate breakfast, and loaded up.
5:30 a.m. We officially started the drive home.
Around 11, we reached the border.

Aside from a long wait, crossing the border was uneventful for our van. The van with our translator and his son was momentarily delayed while they questioned the two of them, but soon we were all safely back in the U.S.

We stopped at McDonald’s in Yuma for lunch. Normally, I’m not a big fan, but I was seriously craving an all-American Big Mac!

We ended up camping out in the parking lot for awhile, since the starter on one of the vans went out. Thankfully, we weren’t far from a parts store, and the timing couldn’t have been better. 
6:45 pm. We pulled into the church parking lot. As darkness settled and we gathered for prayer, it felt eerily like the previous Saturday morning before we left. The week went by so fast, and yet it felt like an eternity since we’d been home.

Speaking of which, I really struggled during the missions trip with feeling like I didn’t do anything. I was sick all day Monday, and didn’t really get back to mostly normal until Friday. I helped with VBS, but the teens and missionary had it all down to a science. I didn’t do much there except help the kids put together their crafts for ten minutes. They really didn’t need me.

As far as the work projects went, on Tuesday morning, I tried to work really hard clearing the empty lot next to the church. But since I hadn’t eaten much, I got dizzy and had to sit inside. On Wednesday, I was excited about getting to work more, but the leaders decided I would go hand out flyers and tracts instead. Ultimately, I’m thankful for that, because it was a very neat experience. Then Thursday I got to go on visitation, but I didn’t say a single word the whole time other than hello and good-bye. I thought my contribution could be singing, but I couldn’t even remember the words to well-known hymns. 
Sitting around the campfire on Friday night, I wondered if it was really worth it. I felt discouraged that I didn’t have wonderful stories to share like the others. But as I thought about it later that night and Saturday night, maybe what God wanted me to learn was that I wasn’t as needed, as important, as I thought. That it’s a blessing just to be used by God, and that maybe He was using me in ways that I wasn’t aware of. 
I like to look strong and capable. And there was nothing strong or capable about puking my guts out at the beginning of the week. Maybe God wanted me to give up that facade and teach me to accept help from others. It wasn’t easy for me.
And there’s no doubt that I have a renewed sense of total gratitude for God’s blessings to us, like this rental house, our vehicles, our clothes, our food, toilets, everything God continues to provide even while Brian is unemployed. It solidifies my trust that He will also provide Brian with a new job in His timing. 
So what about you? Has God ever had to humble you?

A penny for your thoughts? To leave a comment, click on “Links to this Post” below.

Seeing the Big Picture

In my drawing class, I’m learning a lot…. about myself. I’ve learned that I want to do everything perfectly, and the first time too. Anything less is frustrating to me. One day in particular two weeks ago, I was was so sick of trying to get the shading just right, I just wanted to quit and go home. I was using charcoal pencils for the first time, and for some reason my eye and hand were not communicating. I was drawing, erasing, and re-drawing, and fuming at myself on the inside.

But it wasn’t just the shading that was bothering me, Brian was miserable at work, again. After a year and half of almost constant misery, I had had it with this job. And I’d had it with Brian too. He’d been telling me for months that he would apply for other jobs, but somehow never got around to it. I’ve written about Brian’s work struggles before, here and here and here. I took my frustration out on my paper, scrubbing with the eraser and pushing so hard with my charcoal pencil that the lead snapped off. Finally, class ended.

Class meets twice a week, so after a few days, I was back in the studio, dreading working on that picture. Maybe I’ll just scrap it and start over, I thought. I flipped to that page in my sketch book, and gasped. Did little art fairies work on it after I’d put it in my locker? I expected to see a crude, rough, misshapen image, but this actually looked good. Really good. 


As I stood and stared at the page, I got it. I had been standing six inches away from the paper, obsessing over one tiny place, and totally missing everything that was going right. I was missing the big picture.

I had been doing the exact same thing with life. I was so fixated on one problem- Brian’s job, and trying to fix it myself, that I was missing the big picture of my life, and our life together, and all that God was doing.

Finally, I accepted what I’d known to be true all along. I can’t make Brian’s job better, and I can’t make him find a new one. I can’t control the situation at all. So, I let go. And in that moment, I felt peace flood me, a peace that I’d been missing for a long time.

A few days later, I’d just finished lunch when I heard the garage door opening. I looked out the window, and there was Brian’s car, pulling up outside. Why is he home so early?! And then I knew. His first words to me were, “We’re free!” His bosses let him go, saying that they didn’t think it was a good fit anymore and they didn’t think he was happy there.

I think I took it a lot harder than Brian. At first I was sad for him, and then I was angry at the company. Almost all of the employees there aren’t happy, but they didn’t get fired. Some of them are downright uncooperative, while Brian always worked hard. They recently offered one employee a raise, because they knew he was unhappy there and they wanted him to stay. But Brian, they let go.

I couldn’t be angry or even sad for long. It was such a relief to be done, and move on.

http://karlseen.tumblr.com/

Brian has applied to five jobs since then, and given his resume to people we know at church who offered to take it to people at their companies. Yesterday, Brian attended the career fair at ASU, and one company set up an interview with him right away after seeing his resume. Several more seemed interested.

It’s an exciting and a little bit scary time for us. We know it was no accident that God led us to Arizona, and we know He’ll continue to lead us in the future. It’s all part of His big picture.

Now I want to hear from you: What has God been teaching you lately?
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Women of Faith Conference: Fun, Worship, and Overcoming Emotions

Last weekend, I attended the Women of Faith Conference, and brought a friend, for free. So before I divulge the details of the fun, worshipful, refreshing, and convicting weekend, I want to thank Booksneeze for partnering with Women of Faith to give bloggers the chance to go in exchange for at least two blog posts about it, one before and one after. I can tell you right now, I don’t think I can fit all I learned into one post, so today I’ll tell you about day one, sessions 1 and 2.

I’m here!
Tara and me, being very excited about the conference about to start
The stage 

The first session started at 10:00 am. After worship and some introductions to the speakers, Patsy Clairmont took the stage. She challenged us to start every day with three words. First, with “Yes.” Yes to whatever God has planned for us that day. Yes to His schedule and timing. Secondly, with “Thank you.” Thank you for another day. Thank you for all of His blessings. Thank you, even during the tough things that some days will bring, because they are opportunities to glorify Him. And thirdly, “No.” No to people and activities that divide our attentions from what is most important. No to Martha business, and Yes to Mary attentiveness.

She talked at length about our emotions. Sometimes as women, we feel enslaved to our feelings and we let them control us and dictate our behavior. Patsy said, “God has equipped us with a will that is stronger than our emotions.” We can choose to listen to truth over what our emotions are screaming at us. We can choose to believe the truth of God’s Word and what He says about us, and other people, regardless of how we might feel.

Patsy finished with three truths:

  • Life is messy. No one has it all together. We are all broken people with messy lives in need of grace.
  • People are textured. When we think we really know someone, we might be surprised. We need to realize that people may be hiding hurt or brokenness that we are unaware of, and they need our mercy and compassion. 
  • God’s ways are mysterious. His ways are so much higher than ours, we can’t understand why He does what He does a lot of the time. But we can trust His character, and believe that He does have a plan and no suffering is wasted. 
We took a break for lunch, and I was pleased to discover that we didn’t have to pay for lunch after all. Every one got a free boxed lunch, and the leftovers were donated to an area shelter. 
Notice the WOF label on the water bottle 😀

When we came back, Andy Andrews spoke, but I didn’t take any notes, because he was kinda all over the place… literally. The entire time he talked he paced all over the stage, running up and down the stage stairs, up and down the aisles, and back and forth in front of the stage. 
But basically, he told his life story. He lived a normal life until the age of 19, when his mom died of cancer and his dad died in a car crash. Soon he was homeless, and through the influence of a man named Jones, started reading autobiographies. Soon he was hooked, and while he was homeless, he read over 200 biographies. He determined a set of seven principles that guided the men and women he read about, and began implementing them in his own life. Now, he has written several novels in which the characters apply these principles, and he is a motivational speaker who encourages audiences to apply the principles to their lives.

He also talked about investing in yourself. I think it was one of his principles, but he talked about the importance of reading. Reading invests in our mind, because it increases our knowledge and wisdom. Investing in ourselves makes us a better contributor to society. 

I learned a lot from session three, so I’m going to save that for another post. But at some point during session three, there was a Q and A for Patsy and Andy. The questions and their answers were so enlightening, I wrote them all down. I’ll save some of them for another post, but the first question was related to the first session: “How can you make your will stronger than your emotions?” 

Patsy replied, “It already is!” She explained that many times we don’t realize it, because we haven’t exercised it. Our will is like a muscle, and the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Whether we are refusing a fourth piece of cake or a self-deprecating thought, our will is already stronger than our emotions, and we need to choose to use it to say no.

That session ended at 3:30, and we had a break for dinner, until Session 4 started at 7:00. Tara and I walked down to TGI Fridays, not realizing that the Diamondbacks were playing the Giants that night. We had great seats to watch the warm up!

Tara and I had a great discussion during dinner, and since we still had plenty of time before the next session, we kept talking and walking. Tara was surprisingly energetic after eating, so we spent the rest of our time walking around the block and then doing laps around the concourse. I was SO full after my wonderful meal at TGIF,  I would have been perfectly content to sit in our seats for an hour and let my food turn to fat, but it was good for me to get in my exercise for the weekend!

If you go to the Women of Faith conference, I highly recommend going with a friend. Not just because they’ll encourage you to exercise, but because when you discuss the messages with someone else, you learn so much more!

I loved Friday night. Session 4 started with all of the speakers giving a short introduction. We’d already met Patsy Clairmont and Andy Andrews, and we were introduced to Mandisa, Marilyn Meburg, Sandi Patty, Lisa Whelchel, and Brenda Warner.

Lisa Whelchel
Mandisa 
Marilyn Meburg
Sandi Patty

Lots of People!
We sang several fun songs about being women 🙂

Deborah Joy Winans performed a hilarious skit about all the roles we play as women. She opened a suitcase and pulled out a prop for each character role we play, such as Wendy the Workaholic, Charlotte the Chauffeur, Linda the Love Slave, and a peppy exercise girl, accountant, soccer mom, and psychiatrist whose names I don’t remember.

We were also privileged to see Tim Hawkins, since the Phoenix event was the only one he could make. Both Tara and I laughed so hard that we almost threw up, that’s how funny he was! If you need a good laugh, look him up on you tube. My favorite parts of his thing were the thesaurus prayers, bedtime prayers, and his dance to “Party in the USA.” If you ever get a chance to see him live, do it!

The Women of Faith tour partners with World Vision, so we got to watch a video of a beautiful true story about an ordinary woman who decided to start sponsoring a little girl at a Women of Faith Event. This woman corresponded to this girl and then with her young mother. They were able to help this single mother start a business, send her children to school, and journey from hopelessness to hope. When World Vision gave this woman and her husband a surprise trip to visit the family, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place!

Probably my favorite part of Friday was worshiping with Mandisa. I loved her music before, and I’d been inspired by her weight loss journey and blog, but seeing her live was so much better. Her talent is mind-blowing, her joy contagious, her worshipful heart inspiring.

Mandisa

When I got home, I made a list of my “takeaways” for the day:
1. Say “Will you forgive me,” more often.
2. Plan to invest in my personal growth.
3. Face my fears to overcome them.
4. Realize that all my choices and actions matter.
5. Realize that Brian and I are both broken, and I must take responsibility for myself.
6. I need to build Brian up more, making a conscious effort.
7. I will pray about when God wants us to have children.
8. Write to sponsor child.

Over the next few days, I’ll tell you more about how I came to those conclusions.

To end today’s post, what do you think about saying Yes, Thank you, and No every day? How would your life be different? 



Have you used the Refuse, Replace, and Repeat strategy before? Do you believe that your will is stronger than your emotions? Why is it hard to exercise our will and not obey our emotions? 


Do you invest in yourself? Why or why not? 

The Gift of Getting Away

512. God knows that getting away from all the noise, the facebook notifications, the flagged emails, the twitter updates, is sometimes the perfect gift. 

513. And it’s even better with friends.

sidenote: these guys own the house we’re renting, and the dog belongs to them. 

 514. The gift of getting close up with nature.

 515. The gift of adventure. 

Two of the families on our trip are native Arizonians and grew up camping in this area. Because they knew some of us weren’t as experienced, they picked an easy trail for our hike.

Easy. Mmmhmm.

The views were breathtaking, but I didn’t get to look up often, I was too busy trying not to stumble and fall down the mountainside. 
the “easy” trail

It was grueling for me. Much of the trail going down was loose, sandy gravel. I was as slow as the 5 and 8 year old kids. God brought to mind several spiritual parallels, and I found that encouraging. For instance, the hike was difficult, but it was good for me. It was making me stronger physically. In the same way, God allows us to experience trials so that we grow stronger spiritually. 

516. He brings beauty from ashes.

 517. A strong partner
I depended on Brian to keep my balance much of the time, and to lead me in the best way down loose gravel slopes, around scorched fallen trees, and up rocky inclines. 

the “easy” path gets harder…

 518. A marked trail to follow.

When the path got rocky and hard to see, some hiker before us had marked the path with stones stacked on top of each other. When we feel like we’ve lost our way in life, God gives us reminders of His plan for us and His forgiveness and love. Sometimes, He uses people who’ve been there before.


519. Being held by His hands, seeing His glory revealed. 

We arrived at our destination, a cave that rail road makers had blasted out of the mountain, but never finished.  

Looking at the pictures now, it brings to mind when placed Moses in a cleft in the rock and covered him with His hand as He passed by, so that Moses could see the tail-end of His glory.

We were hidden in the rock, and beholding God’s glory revealed through nature. 

 And we were always in His hands.

518. The gift of stillness.

The water hurried past, but for a weekend, we didn’t hurry anywhere.

519. Light touching fallen things and making them golden and beautiful. 


520. The gift of growth. However painful it may be.

521. The gift of the small and the humble.

522. The gift of knowing that He knows what lies around the bend. So I don’t have to. 

523. The gift of peace, quiet, and rest. 

Are you taking time to “get away” this summer? Are you taking time to rest and renew? 

The Lamb Of God

1 Who has believed our message
   and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,

   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,

   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.
 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,

   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.  

4 Reasons to Observe Lent, Even if You’re Not Catholic

“Are you Catholic?”

I remember asking one of my college friends who’d just told me they were fasting for Lent. That’s when I found out that several denominations practice Lent, including Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and growing numbers of Baptists and Mennonites. However, I’ve been asked that question, “Are you Catholic?” So it’s time for a history lesson. You might wonder, Why now? Lent has already started. You’re right, it has. But my philosophy is that some is better than nothing. So if you decide Lent is for you, I don’t think it’s too late to start.

What is “Lent”?

Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

I found that definition on Wikipedia, so it has to be true (ha!). But honestly, I think it is pretty spot on. But why the word “Lent?” What does that mean?

It actually means “Spring.” It comes from Lenz in German and Lente in Dutch. The German word has the root word for long, because the days begin to lengthen in the spring.

photo © 2007 Per Ola Wiberg | more info (via: Wylio)

Who started Lent?
Lent’s roots go back to Leviticus. God gave the Israelites holidays to remember their history, not unlike thw way Americans celebrate the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. One of these holidays was a day of repentance from sin known as Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 23:27 Moses tells the Israelites to “deny yourselves.” This phrase contains the Hebrew word anah, which means “to afflict one’s throat,” or fasting from food and possibly water. This was a day that the Israelites made themselves miserable as they confessed and repented from their sins, engaging their body with their spirit.

This practice continued in the early church. The converted Jews, released from the Law, no longer had to observe the Jewish Day of Atonement, or any of the other feast or fast days. So the early believers created their own calendar of fasts and feasts, which is still visible in the liturgical calendars used today. Forty days has special significance because Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness. Socrates of Constantinople ( not the Greek philosopher but a Greek Christian Historian) mentioned the practice of Lent in his writings, which cover the years 305-439 A.D.

Why Observe Lent?
1. To repent from sin.
Throughout the Old and New Testament, fasting is associated with grief and repentance. Moses, the Israelite nation, David, the apostles, all fasted. As Scot McKnight says in his book, Fasting: The Ancient Practices,

“If our shame over our sin arises in the heart of our very being or finds itself lodged in the core of our conscience – and most of us know just how penetrating this experience is – and if the body and heart are one, depriving ourselves of food and denying ourselves simple pleasures manifest themselves naturally.”

There is something to be said for repenting with your whole body, not just your words. Fasting makes it real. It’s not about punishing ourselves, because we are forgiven and covered by grace, but it is about truly being sorry, being grieved, for our sins.

2. To realize our depravity and dependence.
Fasting is hard for me. I forget and I fail….often. It’s tempting to just give up on fasting entirely. But I’m realizing that even when I fail, I’m still learning. I’m learning how weak I am, how depraved. How tempted by the world I am. How incapable in my own willpower I am, how much I desperately need God. I’m learning humility when I have to come before God and confess that I forgot… again.

All this is good for me. It is killing the self-righteousness and pride that are some of my biggest struggles. It’s also attacking my notion of control over my life and I-can-do-it-myself attitude.

While I’m sure each of our learning experiences is different, I hope you’re encouraged not to quit when failing. Chalk it up to part of the overall learning experience, thank God for grace, and jump back in.

photo © 2005 Mark Probst | more info (via: Wylio)




3. To remember Christ’s sacrifice.
This has to be intentional. It’s so easy for me to let fasting become about me. I think about how I feel, why I’m doing it, I compare my fast to others, and I forget the real why: the practice of giving up molds us into become more Christlike by reminding us of all that Jesus gave up for us.

Ann Voskamp puts it this way: “[Lent is] like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”

4. To prepare to celebrate victory.
Lent prepares us for Easter. The sacrifice prepares us for the celebration. We celebrate the end of our sacrifice at the same time we celebrate the reuniting of Jesus with His heavenly glory, and we celebrate new life. 

Resurrection by Mike_tn

Ann Voskamp quotes the “The Spirituality of the Cross”:

Without food, we would starve to death. We have to eat to fuel our physical life; otherwise we grow weak and waste away. The only food that can sustain our bodies comes from the death of other living things… There can be no life, even on the physical level, apart from the sacrifice of other life.

What is true for physical life is true for spiritual life — we can only live if there has been a sacrifice.” 

If you’d like to read Ann’s post that I’ve been quoting, it’s called “Why Do Lent? Why A Failing Lent Actually Succeeds.”

Did you learn anything about Lent? Have you ever celebrated it before? What was your experience?

Resolved

I’ve taken my time with my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve enjoyed reading those of others, and I incorporated some of their ideas into mine, and I was very influenced by the Proverbs 31 woman.

Personally, I enjoy making resolutions; I used to do it every year until I got “too busy” with college. I’m doing it this year because I like the structure of it, and it gives me measurable goals to work towards.

After a few drafts, I’ve resolved to list them as follows, with the accompanying references from Proverbs:

Source

1. Healthier Living
~Eat/fix healthier meals, using more whole, fresh, and nutritious foods. Verse 14, she seeks food from afar, gives me the idea that this isn’t just any old food, it’s the best for her family that she can find.
~Exercise three times a week. Verse 17, her arms are strong and she works vigorously.

2. Personal Growth
~Read more books, try for one per month. Verse 26, she is wise and learned.
~Read the Bible in a year. Verse 30, she fears the Lord.
~Take time to create. Verse 13, she works with her hands eagerly, or “with delight” in other translations.That involves completing two scrapbooks this year, drawing and painting, and making other crafts, including home decor projects.
~Develop hospitable habits. Verse 20, she takes care of others. For, me this will include inviting people over on a regular basis and remembering to write thank you notes!
~Establish good daily routines. These routines will need to include exercising, Bible reading, creating, and regular cleaning and de-cluttering so that we can be hospitable without worrying about what our house looks like. Verse 15 and 27, she gets up early and manages her household well, without being idle.

Photo by: CharisAlexandra

3. Outward Impact
~Cultivate a heart of compassion. Verse 20, she opens her arms to the needy. I hope to do this by supporting ministries with my blog income, writing about the ministries I support and why, recommending them to my readers, and fasting one day a month.
~Develop my blog. Verse 26, she speaks with wisdom and faithfully instructs. My goal for this year is to continue posting three times a week, working on building relationships with bloggers and readers, and writing quality content that encourages and challenges.

It seems like a lot, now that I’ve got it all typed out! The hardest for me I’m guessing will be exercising three times a week, sticking to a routine, and reading the Bible in a year. 
Just so you don’t have to go look up the passage now, here’s Proverbs 31.
10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find? 
   She is worth far more than rubies. 
11 Her husband has full confidence in her 
   and lacks nothing of value. 
12 She brings him good, not harm, 
   all the days of her life. 
13 She selects wool and flax 
   and works with eager hands. 
14 She is like the merchant ships, 
   bringing her food from afar. 
15 She gets up while it is still night; 
   she provides food for her family 
   and portions for her female servants. 
16 She considers a field and buys it; 
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 
17 She sets about her work vigorously; 
   her arms are strong for her tasks. 
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, 
   and her lamp does not go out at night. 
19 In her hand she holds the distaff 
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 
20 She opens her arms to the poor 
   and extends her hands to the needy. 
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; 
   for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 
22 She makes coverings for her bed; 
   she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, 
   where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, 
   and supplies the merchants with sashes. 
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
   she can laugh at the days to come. 
26 She speaks with wisdom, 
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 
27 She watches over the affairs of her household 
   and does not eat the bread of idleness. 
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; 
   her husband also, and he praises her: 
29 “Many women do noble things, 
   but you surpass them all.” 
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; 
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, 
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Did you make resolutions this year? Why or why not? 
Was there a particular verse or passage that inspired you? Please share with us in the comments!

How Then Shall We Live?

Funny, how God works. Slowly opening my eyes, chipping through my shell. And eventually, bursting my comfort bubble.

I wrote about reading Outlive Your Life, and the question that haunted Max Lucado haunted me: “When your grandchildren discover that you lived in a day when 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?”

We only have one short life. What am I doing with mine?

beamerfilms.com

I have always been terrified of realizing at the end of my life that I’ve wasted it. As a child, I felt that God had a purpose for my life. But as I got older, I began to panic, thinking I could miss it when God revealed it to me,  and my life would be wasted. Or, that He wouldn’t reveal it to me at all. My journals were filled with tear-stained pleas for God to just use me, anywhere, in any way. “I want to make a difference, and make at least just one life better for being here,” I begged.

This week, I’ve realized again how complacent and comfortable I’ve grown, and my burden for the poor and those suffering around the world has doubled.

Last Sunday was missions Sunday, and the message of the main speaker especially convicted me. He challenged to evaluate where you invest: in the earthly things of this world, or in the eternal.

It’s so easy to covet the status symbols and all the stuff we can buy in America. But deep down, we all know that “he who dies with the most toys” really doesn’t win. He loses. Big.

He misses out on the blessings God promises those who sacrifice for His sake:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

It’s so easy to look away from the eyes of starving children, hurting women, battered men, and pretend they don’t exist. They’re just numbers, difficult for us to comprehend. It’s so easy to check out, walk out, turn it off, and go back to searching for our next toy.

Someone else will take care of them. We squirm. We briefly consider what we could do, but then our “logic” kicks in. Why should I sacrifice anything for them? After all, God has blessed me. Doesn’t he want me to be happy and enjoy it?


I don’t see that “logic” in my Bible. I don’t see God telling us to hoard our blessings and live happy, comfortable lives, oblivious to the suffering in the world.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matt. 16:24

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to shareIn this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Tim. 6:17-19

God’s blessings come, not from keeping them for ourselves, but from giving them away.

The beautiful story Ann tells captures it so well:

“There once was a baby. And the baby was born into a family that was lost. Lost in a spinning, dizzy world and a long time ago, the family had had a map but one brother said it was outdated, irrelevant, and a sister threw it over a shoulder and who had memorized the red lines of the map? 

And instead of journeying in that direction headed toward home, the family all stumbled and fumbled around, tripping over each other and grabbing at things found on the road, all these things. But things never help you find your way home.
The worse of it was, that to ask for help to get home, the brothers and sisters needed to know their names, — how do you find home unless you know who you are? where you come from? — and they had forgotten their names. They had all forgotten who they really were.
The longer that they were lost, the more they forgot who they were, and the more selfish they became — because that is what happens inside when you’re scared there won’t be enough. So they hoarded what they had, and ate what food they found, and who would give away?
Some brothers went hungry, and some sisters, their stomach’s gnawed loud and late into the night, and the family forgot that they were one, all connected to each other, and when one ached, they all hurt —though in ways they didn’t even know. The baby was not hungry because the baby was the one who gave away.
The baby had given up the vaults of heaven to be born in the valley of a feed trough, and the cradle for the baby was the manger for the animals, the place where all the ones wandering in the fields came to be fed. Born in Bethlehem, the town with the name that means house of bread, the baby came to feed all the lost ones. The baby gave His life away to the lost ones that they might find their names and real selves.

It’s the season of the greatest give away ever, Christmas about the Christ who gave it all away.

Love that gave not to those who loved Him.

Love that gave not to those who could give back, but Love that gave to those who were poor, bankrupt, enemies – 

“And who will give away, and their lives?” I am telling the story now to me. “Why is the world hungry when God’s people have bread? Are bread? What is there more to be in this life than to be bread for another man?” 

I hurt and I know it. 

~Ann Voskamp , excerpt from The Great Giveaway  
www.aholyexperience.com

How then shall we live? I think God asks different things of each one of us.

Maybe He wants some of us to sacrifice our time by taking time to pray for the needs of believers and non-believers around the world.

Maybe all He’s asking is for a heart change. Instead of the “I worked for it, so it’s all mine! I do what I want with my money!” attitude, maybe God wants us to be willing to give it all up if He asked us to, surrendering our bank accounts and belongings to Him.

Maybe He does want us to re-evaluate where we’re spending our money in the coming year. If “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” is true, where is our heart? Is it in our entertainment? Our car? Our house? Our kids? Not all our priorities are wrong, but are they in the right order? Where are you investing?

One thing I have learned: it’s essential to not look at what other people are doing, or not doing. You’ll be discouraged, feeling like your gift isn’t enough in comparison, or sorrowing for those who close their hearts. Or, you might become complacent, and content with the status quo, and miss out on the blessings God would give you.

I don’t have it all figured out. I’m still wrestling with God. I know what’s true, I just don’t know what to do about it. I feel deep inside that He wants to use me to do…something more. I’m waking up in the night, I can’t sleep until I find out what it is. I burst into tears randomly. I feel so small. I am so small. I am one person against such a vast world of pain and hate. Deep inside I know He can use me, but I wonder, how? Where? When? 


Perhaps I have been so busy searching, that I have forgotten to be still, and listen for His voice.


Perhaps I’m not alone. Do you need to be still and listen too? Let’s strive to listen for His voice together this Christmas.

To Do List:1- Stop making Lists!

I love lists. I love being organized. But it’s gotten to the point where I feel smothered under a pile of scraps of paper with all the things I’m supposed to do…and never get done.

Let me tell you just how many lists we’re talking about.

source

Kitchen: one shopping list, one menu list, one recipes-to-try list= 3 lists

Dining room/living room: one list of meal plans for Brian, one list of house hold projects for Brian, one list of wedding gifts, one list of addresses for thank you cards for the wedding gifts = 4 lists

Bedroom: two camping packing lists, 4 lists in the nightstand drawer = 6 lists

Guest bedroom: six sticky note lists, one weekly cleaning list, one to do list, one calender, 5 sticky note lists in the desk drawer, one notebook with probably a hundred daily to do lists = 114 lists, approx.

Pretty much, the only place in our apartment where I’m safe from the barrage of Things-I-Should-Do is in the bathroom.

Each line on each list is one pang of guilt. I didn’t sweep the kitchen yesterday, I’m not going to dust today, we didn’t hang the valance last weekend, I haven’t written that blog post yet, I meant to have half of my thank you cards mailed by October, and now I’ll probably be lucky if it’s done by Christmas.

Not everything is time consuming, not everything is important. I know that, but I still feel like everything should be a priority. I feel like I should have more crossed off at the end of each day. I feel like I should have made progress by now.

It got to the point where I felt so overwhelmed and guilty that everyday around 4 p.m, I curled into a ball on my bed and cried. I cried because I can’t do it all, and I really want to. I cried because everyone wants something from me, and I don’t have anything to give. I cried because I’ll probably never accomplish half of the things I want to, and people will be let down, and it will be my fault. I cried because the more time I take to recharge and relax, means the more hurried and stressed I’ll be when I come back.

Jesus admonished a stressed-out and overwhelmed Martha:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42)

I thought and prayed over this verse, and I finally told Brian that I feeling overwhelmed, and a little depressed. He asked me lots of questions, all beginning with, “Do you feel like…How does it make you feel when…” in true psychiatrist style. But actually it really helped me to pin-point my problem: prioritizing and delegating. After we’d established that, Brian had me gather all my lists from throughout the house and combine them into one big list, not including the 100 daily to-do lists. It took up three pages of notebook paper! Seeing all the tasks together in one place was at once overwhelming and soothing, since I didn’t have to try to remember where they were written down anymore.

 Like the engineer he is, Brian had me put them into an excel document and number each according to priority, 1 being past due. This was hard. It took me a while, but I realized how much weight I’d been giving to less important things, and re-evaluate things I’d been neglecting. Brian also encouraged to delegate to him anything that he was capable of doing. When I only assigned him installing the valance, he was actually offended, and insisted he could do the laundry, vacuuming, taking out the trash and newspapers, and washing dishes. And he did!

Am I a blessed wife or what?! I’m so grateful that God used my husband to help me get my priorities straightened out. I know it will be a struggle still to stay focused, but with practice and His help, I can stop worrying about many things, and choose the one thing that is needed. 

Have you struggled with being overwhelmed? How do you prioritize?