Friday, December 30, 2011

Whispers in the Night

            Well, 2011 has just about come to an end. It's hard to believe how much quicker time goes as you get older. I feel like it was just the other day that I was writing in my diary on January 1 talking about the interesting dates this year (1-1-11, 1-11-11, 9-10-11, 11-1-11, and of course 11-11-11! Yes I am a nerd, I know). Now all those dates have come and gone. Lately I've kept myself so busy that I haven't really stopped to reflect on the year that has gone by. Did I accomplish anything? Is there something worth remembering? I think that the answer would be yes to both of those questions even if nothing big happened. It's the little things that keep us going. In her books, Karen Kingsbury refers to those moments when we find something to laugh about or reflect on as whispers of encouragement. She got the idea from 1 Kings 19:11-12 "And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; [but] the LORD [was] not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; [but] the LORD [was] not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; [but] the LORD [was] not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." We may think that we'll only see God through major events or miraculous signs, but really where we find Him most often is through a still small voice. A rainbow in the clouds, a butterfly on a blooming flower, a baby's laugh, a cat's meow, a puppy cocking it's head, a fond memory, the fellowship of friends and family...those "little" things add up pretty quick when you change your focal point.

            So, as we enter into the year 2012, whether you have many New Year's resolutions or none at all, look for the whispers of encouragement that brighten your day. When you feel down or discouraged, don't let negative thoughts take over. Something I did a few days last year that I should do more often was keeping a list of positive things. At the end of the day, I wrote down 5 good things that happened throughout the day. Some days it may be harder than others to fish out those moments, but when you look back later on, at the very least they could make you smile.

            To all my faithful readers who have made it this far with my poor, neglected blog, or to anyone who has just recently stumbled upon it, I hope you have a blessed 2012. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Finding Peace in the Chaos

Psalm for the Troubled Spirit
        In times of trouble, You are there.
You, O Lord, bring me friendships when I need them the most.
You encourage me when life is at its worst.
When I feel like I'm at the end of my rope, You give me more slack.
When I pray, You give me a peace that passes all understanding.
You are always with me, even when my heart isn't fully with You.
When I'm struggling or confused, Your Word provides me with encouragement and wisdom.
Even when the answer isn't clear, You still give me endurance to keep on the straight path.
Sometimes this world is a scary place and the future looks bleak, but You are still there.
Your presence is what truly brings me hope and peace in a chaotic world.

        So, as we enter the month of the December, let's remember what is truly important. Some people get depressed this time of year, but don't let circumstances bring you down. Remember that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas and that He is always with you; during the highs and the lows of life. Focus on the blessings in life instead of the negative things. Allow God's love and the comfort of friends and family to carry you through this month full of frantic shoppers, busy schedules, and stressful deadlines. If you get a moment, slow down and savor the magic of Christmas. Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child again. The snow, the lights, the beautiful decorations, the music, and most of all the love that comes from the hearts of those around you. Taking the time to find joy in the midst of pandemonium can help you to spread that joy to others, and maybe together we can shine the light that so often gets burned out.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flying Against the Wind

One windy day, as I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, I saw a dragonfly. This particular dragonfly was determined to fly against the wind. It flapped its little wings as fast as it could. I watched as it flew forward a few feet, only to be pushed back by a gust of wind, over and over again. It kept going, even when its efforts only kept it in one place for a few seconds. I don't know if that dragonfly ever reached its destination, but I do know that it wasn't about to let a little wind change its course.

            Sometimes life is like that. You try as hard as you can, but something is always putting up a resistance. Sometimes you can't seem to get past a certain point, like you're suspended in mid-air, and, sometimes, you get pushed back to where you started. When this happens, you probably feel like giving in and just letting the current take you away. Instead, you should learn a lesson from the dragonfly: Don't give up. When the struggles and pressures of life try to push you backwards, push back. Life wasn't meant to be easy, and pushing against the wind helps us to grow stronger. Remember that if you know Jesus, you are not alone in your flight. He is there to help you along and lead you back to the right path if the wind gets you off course. God is there when you feel over taken: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) Aren't the wings of an eagle so much stronger then those of a dragonfly? Also, remember that God has the power to stop the wind: "And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39) So, just keep flying, and remember the dragonfly when the wind blows against you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Not Again

           I cannot believe another month has passed by and I haven't managed to get a post up. I have got to get myself on some kind of schedule. To all of those potential readers out there who have probably given up on me: I have ideas...I really do! The problem is getting them out of my mind and into words that make sense to the rest of the world. I can't believe that it has been a year since I started this journey. I was rereading my post and I remembered how enthusiastic I was. I had (still have) so many ideas of stories and topics to write about and I was ready to share them...or so I thought. I guess the past year has been kind of like a long distance race and I didn't pace myself the right way. I started out as fast as I could, I posted twice a month and at least one of those posts was something new. Then, I started losing wind and started searching for diary entries or poems I had already written. Now, I am barely moving forward and only trying to keep pace just to get my monthly time stamp. My last entry was in the middle of August and it was an obituary for my dog with mostly pictures. Look at me now, I am sitting here summarizing my blog...The motivation has disappeared and I am trying to find my second wind. As the Bible says, “...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."(Heb. 12:1, KJV) Ok, so I guess I'm taking that verse a little out of context, but in this race that is set before me, I have been weighed down. Instead of writing for fun and inspiration, I have only been writing out of obligation and thoroughness. I have allowed my enthusiasm to dissolve into the pool of all my other thoughts and tasks. I want to get motivated again, so, I know I've said this before, but don't give up on me yet. I still plan to keep this going, even if it is just a post a month. I hope that stories and poems from my past are at least mildly entertaining, and I do hope to get some more intriguing new material out in the future.

Here's a past post about getting motivated in a race (maybe I should read it again): Attaining the Prize

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Farewell Zoe, my four-legged friend. I remember when I first got you, a little ball of fur with short, stubby legs. When you were so excited to see me one day, you ran straight at me and bit down on my lip. When you escaped one day and chased the donkeys like the herding dog you were bred to be. I remember “talking” to you from my bedroom window and how you were talented enough to say “I love my mama.” I loved kicking your ball and watching you roll it back with your nose. It was so funny that you also used your nose to dig holes, I guess your legs were too short. I remember how much you loved the snow and ice. You would attack snowballs and lick and slide chunks of ice around. I will miss your excited face and wagging stub of a tail that greeted me each day I got home. I’ll miss the way you got the Chihuahuas worked up into a howling session most evenings. I’ll miss you, Zoe, you were a good dog and seven years just wasn’t long enough.

R.I.P. Zoe
April 2004-August 13, 2011
A Most Beloved Friend

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Special Speciality

          Well, here I am again at the end of another month without a blog post. Honestly, I don’t want to give up on this and that is why I make sure I get something posted at least once each month (even if it is at the last minute). I guess it partway stems from my meticulous ways that I must have a post with a timestamp from each month. On that subject, I do have a tendency, almost a need, to over-explain myself, especially when I am writing. I am detail-oriented and I sometimes thrust those details upon people who may not care to hear all the reasoning behind my madness. I catch myself more and more as I’m speaking or in writing a message to a friend or a blog. I will repeat the same thing over and over again sometimes with different wording, but sometimes the very same thing. It’s not just that I want to get my point across, but I also want to make sure that the listener or reader understands why I’m making that point and how I came to that conclusion. Even in this very post I am probably over-explaining the meaning of the word “meticulous.” And now in this same manner I shall explain why I tend to be this way.

          I conceive that it is a variety of things that have happened over the course of my life so far that have lead me to acquire the characteristics I have aforementioned. Ok…so I couldn’t resist putting that sentence in; I hope it didn’t scare you away. Don’t worry, I won’t go into my full life story. I guess the main reason I feel the need to explain everything is because of my quiet nature. I feel misunderstood most of the time and so when I do actually communicate with others, even if it’s over something trivial, I want to make myself clear. There is only a handful of people who seem to truly “get” me, and sometimes it’s frustrating when others don’t understand. I could go on and on about this, and my two best friends have already received their share of the rant, but I’ll spare you the time.

          I know this is going to sound really, really cliché, but it’s true. God made each and every one of us special and we all have our own unique characteristics. This world would be so incredibly boring if all of us were the same. Our strengths and weaknesses in character make us who we are, and so instead of trying to change our weaknesses we should use our strengths. Even if you’re like me and tend to blend into the background, don’t allow that to make you feel useless. This world may appear to be driven by sociability and recognition, but don’t forget all the simple, quiet acts in the background. They may never be noticed unless they’re left undone. I won’t leave out those of you who are more socially-inclined; us quiet ones need you to be the leaders and go-getters. So, whether you’re introverted or extraverted, young or old, organized, artsy, compassionate, strong, smart, or whatever your personality and skills may be, use them. I speak to myself when I say this: don’t let your talents go to waste because you feel like their not good enough or not important. We all have something to contribute no matter how small it may seem. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV).

          If you want to know more about spiritual gifts and contributing to the body of Christ, read the rest of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Also, I found a long, but interesting spiritual gifts test online at:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Mysterious Case of Spots

            You know, God really does work in mysterious ways sometimes, or at least amusing ways. The other day, I was in a rush all day long. I rushed to get ready for work, I rushed to work, I rushed at work, I rushed at lunch, I rushed home after work, and I rushed to get ready for a church camp meeting. As I was driving to the church camp, I glanced down at my knee to adjust my skirt and I saw these 3 big brown spots that weren’t there that morning. Being the worrywart that I am, all these crazy thoughts came rushing through my head: “What are those? Are they blood clots, have I been standing too much? Are they moles from being in the sun too long? Did I get blood blisters from running into something? What did I run into? That leg has been feeling kind of funny today, when was the last time I looked at it?” I said a prayer and hoped to God that it wasn’t anything serious. Well, those spots preoccupied my mind as the camp kids played games and sang songs, but I finally calmed down a little when the preacher started his sermon. As soon as I got home, I had to investigate those spots so I could determine my fate. I looked up and down my leg and found 2 more spots on the bottom of my foot. Then, I sat on my bed and pulled my knee close: “Hmm, those spots are raised, they must be moles…” I rubbed one and it started coming off, then it hit me…It was chocolate! In my rush between work and the camp service I had grabbed a half-melted energy bar and was eating it as I was changing. The melted chocolate had flaked off and got squished onto my skin. I am glad I didn’t ask anyone else for prayer that night, but I guess I did need prayer for my mental state.

            As funny and embarrassing to admit as that is, it really did make a few good points. First of all, I was reminded that I shouldn’t worry so much. Sadly, that is not the first time (and probably not the last) that I invented some horrendous scenarios in my head only to find that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation to my object of worry. When I was a teenager, I used to worry all the time if someone in my family was gone and got home late. I’ve imagined car accidents, fires, thieves, bridges collapsing, etc. and usually I would find out they just made an extra stop or there was a lot of traffic. I was reminded of Luke 12:25-26, which says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” In other words, worrying isn’t going to get me anywhere, so I might as well leave everything in God’s hands.

            Another thing those spots reminded me of is the need to slow down. The only reason I got them in the first place is because I was rushing around all day. I can still get things done without working myself up into a frenzy. Sometimes we just need to take a break, enjoy the scenery, and just savor the moment. I know I usually end up ignoring the most important things when I get too busy. I’m always trying to get everything done on my never-ending to-do list, and I can’t seem to give up even just 15 minutes for what really matters. I don’t leave enough time for prayer and Bible study, a phone call to my best friends, a chat with my mom, or even playing with my cats and dogs (they’re family too). Those are the things that my time should revolve around instead of meaningless repetitive tasks. I think of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Jesus told Martha in verse 41-42: “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.” Mary chose to stop and listen to Jesus instead of trying to take care of all the busywork, and I guess I should take a time out once in while, too.

            Finally, I was reminded that sometimes something that looks bad is actually something good. I thought some chocolate was a disease. Circumstances can be the same way, they may seem bad as you’re going through them, but they can end up being blessings in disguise. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). So, the next time you’re feeling over-stressed, way too rushed, or worried beyond control: slow down, take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “Dear Lord, please heal my chocolate!”

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Waiting Game

Wow! Has another month already passed? I really intended on writing more than once a month, but once again, the time has escaped me. Anyway, I was trying to think of a good topic for today and well I guess I’ll write about something that God has been trying to teach me for a long time. It’s a word I’m sure everyone has had their share of struggles with: patience. I’ve been having a hard time waiting for something (anything) to change in my life, especially over the last few months. It seems like most days are just the same old thing repeated over and over again, like I’m stuck in the movie Groundhog Day except I’m still getting older. I’m talking about things that are mostly outside of my control like a husband coming into the picture or a principal calling to offer me a teaching job. I know that I do have control over some things like my attitude or my walk with God, which still take a lot of patience and self-control to change. I was looking through my diary again and came across a few times when God was reminding me to be patient. So, here are some of my own words from 5 years ago (I was writing about this guy I liked at the time):    
I kept thinking about how easy it was to talk to him. It’s like we clicked or something…All this was swarming through my head and I’m thinking “he could be the one!” Then, I’m not exactly sure how to describe this, but this feeling, an overwhelming thought came into my head, it was almost like it was shouting at me: “WAIT!” I would think about him some more and then again, “WAIT!” I have always been praying about my future husband and for God to give me patience as I’m waiting for him. I’m not completely sure, but I really think that it was God telling me not to worry about that then and to wait for something to happen.
Well, now I know that this was God’s way of trying to get my attention away from that guy because he was not right for me. I’m glad I listened and didn’t attempt to push myself into a relationship with him. Like I wrote in Fasten Seatbelts, Please, I was tempted to try to take the controls of my flight, but I trusted in God’s path instead. About a year and a half later I wrote this about my job: “I do need to just make the best of my current situation and trust God and wait on Him to get me through it and into His ultimate plan for my life.” That sounds like a familiar message and I wrote that in 2007! It sounds a lot like some of the verses that I’ve been repeating to myself and in this blog the past few months. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Also, Philippians 4:11: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

There are so many examples from sermons I heard and books I read lately that continue to remind me to have patience. But, I think I’ll end this post with one more excerpt of my own words, this time from 2009, but they still hold true in my life today:
I guess I really do need to find contentment with God in the here and now instead of constantly longing for tomorrow. This is where God has me right now and things might change soon or they might not, but what really matters is that I allow God to work on my life today and let tomorrow take care of itself. "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34). I’ll leave you with a prayer (from Fame by Karen Kingsbury) that really is perfect for me right now: "God, please now my future see, make it clear where I should be. Open windows, close the doors, not my will, my God, but Yours."
For another post on this topic, go to When Will This Chapter End?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Until The Storm Is Over

With the storms passing through my area, I was reminded of another legacy that has been passed down through my family. My mom was always intrigued by thunderstorms. As a child, I didn’t have much interest in them (they were quite common in Arizona) until I was at my grandma’s house one night when I was 9 or 10. We were out on the front porch and a storm was passing through. We were watching the lightning and counting the seconds before the thunder boomed. Grandma said that the number of seconds between the lightning strike and the boom told us how many miles away the storm was. She also told me a story of one of her childhood experiences. A cloud passed over the car she was riding in and it was only the length of her car. The rain fell from the front to the rear and then they drove out of it. I pictured a cloud hovering over their car like those rain clouds that hover over cartoon characters when they’re feeling sad. Needless to say, I was fascinated by thunderstorms from that point on, just like my grandma and my mom. In Oklahoma, thunderstorms are a little scarier because they have the potential to produce hail or tornadoes, but I still love the clouds and the rain. If anyone took a look at my photos on my computer or in my camera, they’d be able to tell I have an avid fascination with clouds. They can take on so many shapes and reflect so many colors during a sunrise or sunset. They can be so beautiful and magnificent like God’s painting in the sky. I could go on and on about what I’ve learned about weather and how I’ve used it as a theme in many of the lessons I did for my education classes at OBU. I should have been a meteorologist, although it would be a difficult job here in Oklahoma with its rollercoaster weather.

Life has its rainy days. Sometimes things get stormy and it feels like your world is crashing in on you. Will the house you built stand up against the wind and floods? It may even feel like Oklahoma sometimes, where you’re burning up one day and freezing cold the next. The storms of life can make us unstable and the darkness may seem like it never ends. But God can calm the storm; He’s the light that brings the rainbow into view. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.” (Ps. 107:28-30, NIV)

“He stilled the storm to a whisper…” I love the phrasing in that verse. When everything seems to be hammering in on you and your mind is full of worries and burdens, it can feel like it’s shouting at you. Or, at least that’s how I feel sometimes. I have also felt the overwhelming peace and stillness that God can bring when I pray. So, whether the storm is raging outside or inside, remember that the clouds will eventually pull away to reveal the sun again.

Just a little afterthought:
            Another thing I like about storms is how well they go with music. If it’s a storm with lots of lightning or if I’m driving down the road in the rain, I have some songs I like to listen to. Here are some of my favorite storm songs:
            *Flood by Jars of Clay
            *Blue Skies by Point of Grace
            *Rain Song by Day of Fire
            *Light Up the Sky by The Afters
            *In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg
Ok, so that last one is just fun to listen to, but if you get a chance, you should look up the lyrics to the others if you haven’t heard them. They are very fitting for a stormy night.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where Have I Been?

            Well, March has come and almost left without a peep on my blog. I usually wrote on Sunday evenings after church, but my Sunday evenings this month have been spent working in the nursery for the couples’ Bible study and playing volleyball. I guess it has been a busy month and I’ve spent my days off going to a wedding shower, a baby shower, and the Bodies Exhibition. The Exhibition was amazing, I think I learned more from it than any biology lesson I ever had. (Did you know that there is not a single part of your body that is more than a millimeter away from a blood vessel?) Looking at our inward parts really is fascinating. As I viewed all those muscles, nerves, and vessels and how they all work together so perfectly, I realized just how amazing God’s design truly is. I would recommend going if you ever have a chance. It will be in Tulsa until April 15.

            The busyness isn’t stopping anytime soon, I’m having a hard time focusing on writing right now because I’m thinking about what I need to get ready for my church’s Disciple Now weekend which begins tomorrow night. April also brings my friend, Katee’s wedding and Easter.

            Anyway, this blog entry has a high resemblance to a Christmas newsletter. I guess this was my attempt at explaining away my own laziness and a lack of motivation to write. So, sorry for the delay, but I thought I’d let you know that this is not a lost and forgotten pursuit. I hope I’ll find some time (and enthusiasm) to write this coming month because there are still many other themes and ideas floating around in my mind that I’d love to share with you, my readers.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 (KJV)

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Look Back In Time

            I present this post in honor of Diary Day, an event I created 10 years ago on Feb. 28, 2001. I have kept the same diary on and off for over 10 years and I have only missed one Diary Day entry. I know this may sound silly, but I like having this day set aside for writing. So, I thought I’d post a quote from each of my Diary Day entries. Hope you enjoy my moments of nostalgia and a little silliness.

2001: Dear Diary, I don’t really know why I’m doing this, if anyone reads it they’ll think I’m crazy.

2002: I think I’m going to make today my official diary day, every year I’ll try my best to write on Feb. 28.

2003: (I still laugh at this one) I promise to you Diary that the next opportunity I have, I will ask ________ to go to the prom with me, and his answer will be the determination of whether or not I’m going to keep him as a crush (obviously). (No, I didn’t ask him, I wasn’t as crazy as I thought I was)

2004: I just feel like I am living two different lives. One here at OBU, with no best friend, and uncrazy; one in Checotah with my family and (friends)…and always doing something out of the ordinary. (What is the obsession with thinking I’m crazy?)

2005: Well, not much else to say and only one line left. Ta Ta.

2006: (The year I missed, so I wrote on March 1) Noooo!!...I missed Diary Day! I am so sad :(

2007: …I sometimes feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. But it’s happening and I guess I just have to live in the moment and take on one day at a time, and hope that God’s plan for me will reveal itself one day soon.

2008: I was looking back through my entries, and as much as I sounded like a totally crazy person in those high school (and some college) years, I would still love to be in that simple time. Sure, things weren’t perfect, but I had my best friends and we found joy in life together.

2009: (This was a long one, hard to pick one quote, I may use some of it in a future blog post) Oh, what a mess I am! Right now, I’m living up to everyone’s expectations of me, but I’m not meeting my own expectations of myself…If only my hand could write as fast as I think!

2010: I read too many books, watch too many romances, and allow my mind to fall into fantasies of what ifs and what could bes…I guess reality just seems rather dull in comparison, it’s hard not to allow myself to escape for a while…I know God doesn’t mind that I have dreams and desires, but I can’t let them take over and push God aside.

Well, that’s all for now. I found some topics in my own writing that I could use in future blog posts, so hopefully, I won’t get another case of writer’s block anytime soon. Until next time, Happy Diary Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love and Marriage from a Single's Perspective

            Normally, around Valentine’s Day, well really the first couple weeks of February, I am very anti-valentine. I have worn black, recruited single friends, and I even once posted a picture I made proclaiming it was S.A.D. (Singles’ Awareness Day) on my Facebook profile. But, something is different this year…maybe it’s because of the unusual blizzard we had this month, maybe it’s because more of my close friends are now married, or the fact that I’ve been writing and reflecting on my thoughts more often, or maybe it’s some of the books I’ve read recently. Whatever it is, I don’t feel as much hatred toward this holiday as I used to. I am still very aware of my singleness, I’m reminded of it almost every time I go into Wal-Mart with its flood of balloons and flowers. But if we lay the commercialism aside, the purpose of Valentine’s Day isn’t so bad. It is a celebration of love; a time to show your loved ones how much you care for them. True romance and chivalry are dying breeds and should be recognized even more than just on Valentine’s Day or a couple’s anniversary.

            Personally, I cannot claim to be an expert on marriage, although I have learned a few things over the years from observing the couples around me. I may not have an in-depth understanding until I gain some experience, but I have an idea of what it takes to have a healthy marriage. So, in honor of the holiday, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned through my observations. The first key is to love and honor God. Many of you have probably heard the acronym for JOY: put Jesus first, then Others, and then Yourself. If you are in a relationship with God through prayer and reading His Word, then your relationship with your spouse will benefit. I have seen prayer work in many marriages. Relationships have been healed, struggles have been taken care of, and lives have been changed through the power of prayer. For singles, building a relationship with God is the best investment you can put into your future. He can carry you through your worries and trials and bring a sense of peace if you allow Him to have control. In marriage, you should love each other as Christ loves the church.

            Another key to marriage is trust. I have seen relationship after relationship fall apart because of a lack of trust. The best way to build trust is to be honest with one another. Don’t hide the past and let your husband or wife know when you make a mistake. If you try to bury the things you’ve done, there is always a chance that they will become unearthed. And I’m not just talking about sexual immorality, there are other things couples hide from each other. Poor financial decisions, taking sides with their kids, and sometimes even illnesses are examples of things that are kept secret that shouldn’t be. Another key to marriage, which is also a good way to build trust, is communication. One of the first things I’ve seen many couples do when they’re angry is shut each other out. Sometimes you may need to cool down from a heated argument, but fuming over the issue and giving each other the “silent treatment” is not going to fix anything. If a problem is not addressed immediately, it will probably come up again or escalate into something far worse. Communication isn’t just about settling arguments either…couples should also express their ideas and interests with each other. Talk about your childhood, participate in each other’s hobbies, discuss how to discipline your kids, share your worries, and the list could go on and on. When couples are communicating well, they will be able to handle things better if an area of conflict or an unexpected trial comes up.

            I am speaking with a voice of inexperience, but I believe with God as the foundation and trust and communication as part of the building blocks, a strong marriage can be built. And as with any building project, it takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it when you see the results. There are so many scriptures that cover love and marriage, here are some I’ve found if you would like to do some “homework:”
            * Proverbs 31:10-31 (a virtuous woman)
            * 1 Corinthians 7:10-15 (divorce)
            * 1 Corinthians 13 (what is love?)
            * Ephesians 5:20-33 (roles of husbands and wives)
            * 1 Peter 3:1-9 (more on marriage roles)

Also whether you’re single, courting or dating, or married these are some good books I’ve read or heard about on the subject of marriage or preparing for marriage:
            * Preparing to be a Help Meet by Debi Pearl
            * The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages for Singles by Gary Chapman
            * Karen Kingsbury’s Redemption series, which includes Redemption, Remember, Return, Rejoice, and Reunion (I know they’re fictional, but she worked with a relationship expert named Gary Smalley to write these books that address major issues and troubles that come up in marriages and families. I really enjoyed reading them and may have learned a thing or two in the process.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

When Will This Chapter End?

Well, I’m back in that writer’s block mode, and I’ve been here the past few weeks. Maybe it’s not really writer’s block, but a lack of motivation. I just can’t seem to get myself to put words to all the ideas floating around in my head. I guess I need to read my last entry again…So, since it’s been a while since I last posted, I thought I’d share something personal. This is some journaling I did about 2 years ago. It’s funny looking back at things I wrote. Part of me still feels the way I did, longing for a change of pace, but, at the same time, I feel like things have changed since then. The changes are just more gradual and inward instead of major changes in circumstances. Anyway, here it is:

I’ve got to hand it to all the great authors out there. They put words together in such amazing ways. Not only do they create great stories but they also create a mood, a feeling, a sense of adventure. I love the stories that just suck you right in and you just yearn to be there with the characters.  Sometimes reading those books isn’t a good thing for me. It makes my life seem so much more meaningless and purposeless when I know it really isn’t. I know God has some sort of purpose in my life, but the waiting is just killing me. I want something exciting to happen, something magical. I just wish I could have my own adventure, something novel-worthy. Not all the books I’ve read are fantasies with wizards and hobbits; I’ve read some realistic and historical fictions with situations that really could happen. Those stories really make me long for change in my life. Where’s my Mr. Darcy? I wish I could attend an old-fashioned 19th century ball, why is most of today’s dancing so horrible and sexual? And why do you always have to have a date if you want to dance?
Really, I do just want something different to happen to me, no more than that…something life-changing. Something that makes a major difference in my life that’s good. A change for the better. I just feel like I’m in an in-between place right now and it feels like I’ve been stuck here forever. When I graduated high school this is not the kind of life I pictured myself living at this point. I should be married, I should actually be doing a job that feels meaningful that I enjoy. After last year’s teaching experience, just the idea of going back to an elementary school makes me cringe. I know that it was my first year, and it was a kindergarten class in an inner-city school, but it’s still hard to completely convince myself that things could be different. And as for a husband, I only wish I had a slight hint of who or when, but it just seems so far away. I realize that things can happen fast; that major life-changing events can take place within a short time span. But, that still doesn’t make me feel any better about it right now. Obviously, I still have some kinks to work out and I know what some of them are. I know God wants me to be fully prepared, and I hope I will be and that my husband will also be ready for me. Maybe my story is not a great adventure, maybe it never will be…but it is my story and with God as the author, it will turn out exactly how it is supposed to. I guess I just need to take comfort in that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Attaining the Prize

            So how many of you made a New Year’s resolution? How many have already broken it? That’s the thing about resolutions, they never stick. We always strive to break a bad habit or change something in our lives but always end up following the same patterns the moment our guard is down. Even this blog is a great example. I wanted to write about the New Year two weeks ago, and kept putting it off for no good reason. I just didn’t feel like writing, so I avoided it. Now it almost feels like the freshness of the New Year has begun to fade away, and my goal-oriented attitude has worn off. So, I need to learn from my own words.
            I must admit that most of this is not entirely original; it’s more of a collaboration of ideas I’ve heard over the past year or so, and I will make reference to the sources (at least those I remember). Let’s start with the ultimate source where all my sources get their information: God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) it says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I also want to use a quote from Karen Kingsbury’s Take Three: “Never be passive. Victories happen when you take charge of a game. You can’t win by playing not to lose.” Doesn’t that make you think? We are not just here to survive through life; we are here to win the race. If we just go through the motions of life, we might just miss out on the prize. In other words, don’t just sit back and expect things to just happen. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change your attitude and actions. “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26). I can actually identify with the reference to sports. When I play volleyball, I am not very competitive, so when I play with competitive people, I try the best I can to make sure I am not the reason my team loses. I am playing not to lose. The people who play to win actually get deeply involved in the game; they are doing everything they possibly can to win. If you aren’t watching closely, you may not notice this subtle difference between playing not to lose and playing to win. It all comes down to your attitude and the way you approach life’s race.
            Last year my pastor preached about ways to stick to your goals. He used three steps: Purpose (resolve), make a Plan, and Practice. First, in order to win the race, we need to know where the finish line is. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 KJV). As a Christian, my main purpose should be to serve, honor, and obey God. So, when I set goals, I need to make sure they are God’s will for my life. If something I resolve to do would draw me away from church or create a guilty conscience, then it is obviously not a goal God wants me to set. In setting goals, look for areas of your life that you can change, like I already mentioned, you can change your attitude toward life and the actions that you take.
            One of the reasons many of us never keep our resolutions is that we make the resolution and then take action on it, but we skip the middle step. Making a plan for reaching your goals can really help them become much more attainable. If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail. Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be deliberate. In other words, you don’t have to be detail-oriented to make a plan, but you should still have some idea of how you are going to get there. It also does help to allow room for flexibility. If something doesn’t go exactly the way you expected, you should have an idea of how you can get back on track. Don’t let the bumps in the road stop you; just get back up, dust yourself off, and keep running.
            The final step is to practice or take action on your planned out goal. Once you know where the finish line is and the map is drawn out, you are ready to run. Don’t look back at your failures, hoping not to fail again. If you just passively go along with the flow without looking toward the finish, then you are only playing not to lose. We must “forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before [us]” (Phil. 3:13b KJV). Having a purpose and a plan in mind really does make it a lot easier to keep going. And that is how you run the race in order to win!
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