For Good

Today, I’m linking up with Good Morning, Girls! Women in the Word Wednesday. Quick note: I am not doing the James study. I’ve been doing a chronological Bible reading plan, so I was in Genesis/Exodus this past week.
__

For the past week or so, I’ve been reading the story of Joseph. Every time I read this story, I marvel at these words…

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Isn’t that just like our God?

We all have had “Joseph” moments. Moments when we feel abandoned by our loved ones. Moments when we feel like a prisoner with no hope. Moments of helplessness. Moments of sorrow. Moments of despair.

But what man intends for evil, God means for good.

Lately, I have been haunted by a sin from my past. A boy from my past.

During my sophomore year in college, I felt like Joseph. My long-term boyfriend (now husband) and I had broken up, I had dropped my music major, and I felt like I had no idea where I was headed in life.

About a week before Valentines’ Day, a good friend of mine suggested that I go out to dinner with a guy from our dorm. He, too, had broken up with his high school sweetheat. And misery loves company, right?

I didn’t see the harm in one date, so I agreed.

One date turned into two, two turned into three. He fascinated me. His heart for the sick and poor was beautiful. His respect for his family was evident. He was planning on becoming a doctor and he loved music. What wasn’t there to love? Our pity date quickly snowballed into something more than either of us had intended.

But it was an ungodly relationship, and I knew it. He wasn’t a Christian. He wasn’t even an “Easter/Christmas” Christian. He was a devout Muslim. He worshipped Allah. I worshiped the one true God. He saw Jesus as a “good prophet“. I saw him as my Savior and King. He believed good works would make him right with his God. I could only boast in the grace of my own.

Yet…we were both lonely.

Things went too fast…progressing much quicker than any normal relationship. We both had huge cups that needed to be filled. We were running full speed ahead, until, not more than one month later, I hit my breaking point.

I couldn’t talk to my Christian friends at school. Most had already condemned me. I couldn’t talk to my parents. I was ashamed. I called the only person I knew would help me through this.

My dear sweet Daniel.

We hadn’t talked for months. Dan didn’t want us to act like we were dating if we weren’t. I totally get that now. But by the grace of God, he answered his phone that night.

He listened. He prayed. God used him to grant me peace.

He determined that night that he had to be in my life as my brother in Christ. And that night, one destructive relationship ended as another beautiful friendship began.

We had dated for almost four years prior to that night, but for some reason, that phone call marked a new beginning for us. We grew in our friendship, and six months later, we would start dating again…and just about six months after that, he would propose…and twelve months (on the dot!) after that…he would be my lawfully wedded husband.

God meant it for good.

Fast forward to a few months ago when we were up at Northwestern College visiting my sister and attending the Desiring God Conference, and we ended up going to a Christian concert.

Between sets, the front man for one of the bands talked about Compassion International. Ever since I had dated that “boy from my past,” my heart was set on adopting a little boy from India. God had used him to give me a heart for the children of India, especially young men. He had given me a deep burden for the lost in India–and a desire to help meet both their physical and spiritual needs. That night, my prayers were answered. Dan had known my desire for quite some time, and when we saw that there were children from India that needed sponsors, we decided to sponsor our first child…a now twelve-year-old boy named Sujin.

God meant it for good.

Yesterday, I was brought to tears reading this post from A Holy Experience and was reminded of the precious little boy who God has placed in our life. I went to a pile of old mail and found our first letter from Sujin and poured over it again and again…

I am very happy that you are going to be sponsors. You are [sic] support is making it possible for me to attend the child development centre where I am receiving tutoring and learning about Jesus. Thanks for your support. May God bless you.

Thanking you, with love,

Sujin


God meant it for good.

I sat down and wrote him a “Happy Birthday!” letter, picturing his face when he receives our note. And when I laid my head on the pillow, I prayed. I prayed…

…That he would grow deeper in the knowledge of our savior.

…That he would fall more in love with Him each day.

…That he would become a man after God’s own heart.

…That we will meet in heaven one day.

And I thanked God. With my whole being, I thanked him.

For God meant it for good.

Isn’t that just like our God?

How to fix a short fuse

I have been hearing the term “short fuse” a lot lately.

In reference to me.

It’s true. The past week or so I have been kind of on edge and ready to blow.

This morning, I visited the Good Morning, Girls! website and saw this verse and weekly challenge:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20



Week 3 Challenge: This week we are going to focus on putting verse into action in our lives. As you interact with your families and friends, focus on being quicker to listen, slower to speak and slower to become angry.



Ugh. Don’t you just love when you’re slapped across the face with one of those?

Obviously, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my “short fuse,” and I started thinking about the underlying cause. In doing so, I googled the term “short fuse,” hoping to figure out what causes a real-life short fuse. After reading quite a few explanations with a wrinkled brow, I found this one easy enough for me to understand:

A short is caused when the hot wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a neutral wire (white). It can also be caused if there is a break in a wire in the circuit. Shorts are a bit more difficult to diagnose because they can be caused by the wiring in your home or in something you have plugged into an outlet.



You probably already know where I’m going with this…

A short is caused when the hot wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a neutral wire (white).



Back in my VBS Days, I remember one of our leaders doing a cool experiment in which he poured black spots all over a piece of white cloth to represent the sin in our lives. Then he put it in some sort of “magic” solution which washed the cloth white. Black = sin. Jesus = magic solution. White = righteousness. Savvy? (One of the characters used that word in Pirates of the Caribbean, and I’ve wanted to use it for awhile now, savvy? Heehee.)

Needless to say, once we’re made white by Jesus, there aren’t supposed to be any more black spots. No more black wires. No more sin.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:12



When the black wire creeps back in (for me, in the form of impatience, pride, and lack of self-control) and hits the white wire…short fuse.

It can also be caused if there is a break in a wire in the circuit.



This week I fell off the bible reading wagon. I think I went three or four days without picking it up. And my prayer life has been less-than-mediocre. One of my sweet sisters-in-Christ was quick to remind me that our God is gracious and that the only person setting reading requirements for me is me! And thank goodness for that truth! But while I am humbled and grateful for Christ’s goodness and grace, I also understand that there are consequences for my lack of discipline. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” When there’s a disconnect between me and God, when there’s a “break” in my wire…short fuse.

Shorts are a bit more difficult to diagnose because they can be caused by the wiring in your home or in something you have plugged into an outlet.



What am I plugging into my outlet?

Colossians 3 (one of my absolute favorite passages) tells us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Reading through the list, I can definitely see forms of covetousness, idolatry, and malice in my life. I need to “unplug.”

But you can’t just “unplug.” The outlet is there to be used. Instead, Paul tells us to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Can I get a collective amen?

If I “plug in” compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forebearance, forgiveness, love, the peace of Christ, thankfulness, a desire and passion for the word, and genuine praise, not only will I not have any electrical problems, but my light will shine for all to see and will glorify God in the process.

My article tells me that when you have a short fuse, you have a few repair options:



1) Reset the circuit breaker.



“Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10



2) Remove the old wire and replace it with a new one.



“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4

3) If all else fails, call an expert.



“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:1-10



Oh, Lord, help me not to have a “short fuse.” Rid me of myself. Help me to put off the clothing of old, and Lord, clothe me in your righteousness. Help me to practice discipline and self-control in my life so that I might draw near to you. Thank you for rewiring me. Thank you for being such a good and gracious God, rich in mercy and full of love. I am your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Let your glory shine through me!

Eagerly anticipating arrival, enjoyment, engagement and worship

Last Sunday night, I posted the following on my Good morning, girls! (my Bible reading accountability group) wall:


I finished Job last night and it felt so good! This morning, I also noticed a huge difference in my worship at church. I felt more prepared, more natural. Because I have purposed to meet with God each and every day during the week, I was ready to come before his throne on Sunday and thank him for everything he had revealed to me during the week. It was one of the most precious times of corporate worship I have ever experienced.


At church yesterday, I felt the same way. And it felt good. Oh-so-good. I didn’t feel forced or distracted. I had already been walking with God throughout the week. I had been preparing for this moment “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday” and I was ready for Sunday. I don’t say this out of a “holier than thou” heart. In fact, I say it in complete humility and gratitude.



For years, I have gone to church and have had to “pump myself up” for worship. I would go from spending six days “in the world” to suddenly being transported before the throne of God… totally unprepared…often times tired, weary and forced. I always seemed to have jet lag and had to force feed myself a spiritual red bull on Sunday mornings.


Since I started my daily Bible reading plan, I feel like a whole new woman on Sundays. I am excited for church…longing to go and worship God! I feel like I have been soaking him in all week and am ready to explode into worship by the time Sunday rolls around! I can’t help but raise my hands in praise to Author of the Universe. Lyrics which were once words on the screen come alive as I relate them back to my readings for the week. I am brought to tears as we sing and pray about his grace because I have seen it time and time again in my reading this week, and even more, my reading has made me more aware of his grace and mercy in my own life. I am more than ready. I am bursting to worship Him. And it’s all because of Him and the work that he is doing in me through the reading of his Word.


As is usually the case with God, He hammered this point home during the sermon on Sunday.


This Sunday, Pastor Bullmore preached the third part in his series on Living for God in Our Ordinary Lives. Two weeks ago, we learned how to live for God in our ordinary family life. Last week, we learned how to live for God in our daily labor. This week, we learned how to live for God in our ordinary lives by gathering together as God’s people.



We looked at three Psalms…


Psalm 122 – A psalm of eager anticipation


I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”




Psalm 133 – A song of arrival and enjoyment


Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head,

running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

life forevermore.


Psalm 134 – A psalm of engagement and worship


Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!


Beautiful, right?


Oh, that I might continue to eagerly anticipate gathering together with my brothers and sisters for corporate worship. Oh, that I might rejoice in arriving at church on Sunday mornings and enjoy the sweet fellowship with other believers. Oh, that I might be fully engaged in worshiping you, Lord! That I might lift up my hands and bless you who made heaven and earth!





Come, people of the risen king who delight to bring him praise…
Rejoice, Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice!

One heart, one voice; O Church of Christ, rejoice!

He came like a winter snow…

The Christian blogosphere is filled with Sanctity of Life posts this week (read Kevin De Young’s “Jesus Loves the Little Children” post here for a fresh perspective).

I wanted to write something, but just felt like so many people have already done it so eloquently that there was no need.

For some reason, though, the Holy Spirit has laid the following passage on my heart this week…

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

I get choked up just copy and pasting those words on the page.

The baby leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary…the mother of the Savior of the world, a tiny baby…greeted her. The baby leaped for joy in the presence of the Almighty God who had become flesh in the form of a tiny little baby.

When this passage first came to mind, I was just in awe of the fact that a baby could worship God inside the womb. Before he took his first breath, little baby John was already praising his Messiah!

But then it hit me. As wonderful as it is to think that an unborn child could praise his Messiah, it is simply overwhelming to think that the Messiah that he praised was also an unborn child. The God of the universe chose to enter into the world as a tiny little baby… a tiny little unborn baby.

The sanctity of life.

For more on this passage, I recommend listening to Pastor John Piper’s sermon entitled “The Baby in My Womb Leaped for Joy.”

Hedges 2: Playing Together in the Sandbox

Last week, I started a series on building hedges to protect your marriage. Installment #1 dealt with building hedges at work (if you missed it, you can read it here). For installment #2, I thought I’d talk about building hedges with friends of the opposite sex. But before I go there, let’s revisit my disclaimer for this series…

While I think that all Christian married couples should work to protect their marriages based on these passages and others, not every couple will go about it in the same way. The “hedges” that Dan and I have set up are good for us. They may not be good for you, and that’s okay. The hedges you and your spouse put up are between you and God. Period. No judgment here.

Now back to our scheduled programming… 🙂

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a lot of “boy friends.”

As a toddler, I had tea parties with Lance and indoor picnics with Charles.

In kindergarten, we played a recess game called Cats and Dogs. The boys were the dogs and the girls were the cats…with one exception. The boys got to choose one girl to be the Queen Dog and the girls got to choose one boy to be the King Cat. Poor little Bruce was chosen to be the King Cat. Me, on the other hand…I had the honor of being the Queen Dog.

If you look at pictures of my Sweet 16 Birthday Party, you’ll find my best friend Bethany…and about a dozen guys surrounding us.

And when I got to college, I made a few close girlfriends, but spent a lot of time being “one of the guys.”

Needless to say, building hedges with my male friends is still an adjustment for me.

When I married Dan, I had to change my friend habits. I’m no longer “one of the guys” but a wife to one man and one man only. I didn’t have to change because Dan is some sort of crazy controlling husband. I wanted to change because I love him dearly and want to protect what we have together.

So what has this looked like for me? Before you continue, remember my disclaimer;)

1) I don’t do one-on-ones with my guy friends. Ever.

There are two kinds of guy friends: married and single. Most of my single guy friends have moved away, so I don’t have to worry too much about it. But when and if they come back in town and want to get together, they can either come over to my house and spend time with Dan and I, or we (Dan + me + guy friend) can meet somewhere. Honestly, if they care about me, and I love Dan and enjoy spending time with him, then I’m sure they’ll enjoy spending time with him too. Plus…and I’m being completely honest here…I don’t think I’ve ever been really good friends with a guy who at some point in time I didn’t find myself remotely interested in. Even if I was just interested for a moment during a long-term friendship, I wouldn’t want that moment to creep back up on me. So, I’m protecting Dan, yes, but I’m also protecting myself.

Married friends are a bit easier. Dan and I only hang out with friends of the same sex or our married COUPLE friends, and I don’t think either of us feels like we’re somehow “missing out.” It’s just double the fun!

2) When we do have “couple friends,” I remain guarded.

Sadly, I have known a few people whose marriages have fallen apart when a spouse from Couple A and a spouse from Couple B end up having an inappropriate relationship. To avoid that fate, all communications between me and another person’s spouse are done out in the open. Very, and I mean very, rarely do I text or email one of my friend’s spouses in the private sphere. They might get a text from me on their birthday or Christmas, but that’s about it. No long conversations back and forth, no private facebook messages, etc. If I do happen to send or receive a message to/from a male friend, I try to share with Dan so he’s in the loop and not taken off guard by anything, and if I’m the one sending, I might “cc” my guy friend’s wife on the text so that she’s not taken off guard.

I also try to be very sensitive to my surroundings when I’m with other couples. Either boy, girl, girl, boy or girl, boy, boy, girl at the movie theatre (I’d rather share my armrest with my hubby!), and I try not to sit right next to another married man on a couch or at a table if I can avoid it. Obviously you could take this to the extreme, but as a general rule of thumb, I try to sit next to my husband or another woman.

These are hedges of protection for me and Dan, but I also think that they’re hedges of protection for our friends. I would hate for one of my girlfriends to for some reason see my name in her husband’s inbox and have that rush of panic come over her. Even if my intentions were completely pure, I wouldn’t want her to feel any sort of fear or anxiety. Romans 14 says to never “put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother,” and I never want to be that stumbling block. Yes, hedges protect my own marriage, but they also protect the marriages of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

3) I don’t touch.

To be honest, I’m not a huge “toucher” in general. In normal conversation, I wouldn’t lean over and touch someone’s knee or shoulder to make a point, so for me, not touching isn’t that hard. But I do try to keep a decent circle of space. I do high fives and side hugs (if you want a good laugh, read Jon Acuff’s post on side hugs over at Stuff Christians Like) with my oldest and truest guy friends, but that’s about it. Ha…how corny do I sound right now–high fives and side hugs? Pffft.

4) I do touch.

I’m all about appropriate marital PDA. I hold my husband’s hand, rub his back, and kiss him on the head when I walk behind him. These are all little reminders to him that HE is my husband and that I chose HIM over everyone else. Plus, like I said in installment #1, when people see you interact with your husband, they are more likely to respect your marriage.

5) I play taboo.

As I discussed in installment #1, I try not to get all “emo” on my guy friends. No deep, emotional talks without my husband present and no discussing my husband’s flaws, our marital issues, or our sex life. I also don’t discuss things that I haven’t discussed with my husband yet. In other words, no secrets that my husband isn’t aware of.

If there’s ever a question in my mind as to whether or not I should be discussing something with another man, I try to think, Would Dan feel comfortable if he were sitting here with me right now? Or better yet, Would I feel comfortable if Dan was talking to another woman like I’m talking to this man right now? Do unto others…

5) Center my friendships around the gospel.

If my friendships with men are centered around the fellowship and furtherance of the gospel, then I have nothing to fear. (I totally stole that phrase from Warren Wiersbe, so no, I’m not that amazingly smart all by myself!)

Think about it…

I have non-Christian male friends. If I am constantly keeping the gospel at the center of my heart and mind, then I will not act inappropriately with them. God designed marriage to be a beautiful representation of Christ and his church. If am continually trying to further the gospel, then I will not want to distort this representation. I won’t act inappropriately because I will want to show proper respect for my husband to demonstrate the respect I have for Christ. If the furtherance of the gospel is at the forefront of my mind, then I will want to be the best testimony possible so that God might use me as the salt and light in my friend’s life.

But there are also my Christian friends who already believe in the gospel. Often times we describe the time that we spend with our Christian friends as fellowship. “Come on over for some fun and fellowship.” “Thank you, Lord, for food and fellowship.” “Would you like to come fellowship with us as we watch the Bears destroy the Packers?” Good ole’ fellowship. 🙂

But what exactly does fellowship mean? Literally, it means “in common.”

As Christians, we have one thing in common: the gospel.

Warren Wiersbe says that salvation is a threefold work: 1) the work God does for us–salvation, 2) the work God does in us–sanctification, 3) the work God does through us–service. We are a saved people who are being sanctified by God in order to best serve and glorify him. If we keep the gospel in mind, then we will never want to do anything to hinder the work that God is doing in and through our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Instead…

“…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10: 19-25

As a “girl friend,” and more importantly as a sister in Christ, I must only act as to stir up my brothers to love and good works, encouraging them, as the Day of the Lord draws nearer.

In closing…

Be a dog on the playground. Have fun with the boys. Girls rule, boys drool, and hedges let us play together safely in the sandbox. All to the glory of God.

JOY!

2010 was, to put it bluntly, the worst year of my life. For a while I felt guilty saying this, since it was also my first full year of marriage, but Dan agrees, and we’re okay with that. Our marriage is solid, we love and appreciate each other more, we had lots of good times…but it still sucked. Pardon my French (I’ve always wondered why people say that after every crude phrase…anyone know? Hmmm?)

So, let’s just say I was ecstatic to ring in a new year. Goodbye 2010, helllloooooooo 2011! Welcome, welcome, welcome! The Stanleys welcome you with open arms! And so does Mariah Carey…

Pfffft.

I’m so not a New Year’s resolution type girl, but this year, I’m giving it a whirl.

This year, be it resolved, that I, Chelsea Kathleen Stanley, will pursue joyfulness.

Pursuing joyfulness. How hard can it be, right? Ha. Three days in, and it’s already a struggle.

So what am I doing to pursue the joy? Here are my sub-resolutions…

Physical
Exercise more. As Elle Woods would say, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t just go around killing people.” Booya…in your face, Kate Gosselin! (I’ve been saying that all day for some reason…and I kinda like it, I’m not gonna lie).

I also want to cook more meals. In 2010, we went out to eat a lot because I just didn’t have the energy to come home and take care of us. This year, even if it’s hot dogs and crescent rolls, I want to have more meals on the table.

Mental
More reading. Can I just say, Zion-Benton ruined me for life? I DESPISE reading. Seriously. I used to love it. I was reading novels in kindergarten. I couldn’t get enough. Then along came active reading, and I was ruined.

BUT…I’m going to try to love it again. I need something to help me relax, and I think it might just do the trick. So far, I’m halfway through Noel Piper’s “Treasuring God in Our Traditions” and I’m actully enjoying myself. Plus, she taught me how to make killer spaghetti. And how cool is it that I get to make Noel Piper’s spaghetti for my husband who adores her husband? Ahhh…the circle of life.

Emotional
No more anxiety. No more depression. No more anxiety. No more depression. No more anxiety. No more depression. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Last year, I had an intense battle with anxiety, and I wasn’t quite able to kick it. This year, I’m determined to “be anxious for nothing.” A goal that I think will be beneficial for me and my sweet, patient husband.

A while back, during one of my bouts of anxiety, Dan found a strategy for fighting it. It’s actually from a John Piper article on fighting lust, but it works just as well on anxiety. He calls it ANTHEM. And it will continue to be my ANTHEM for 2011.

A-Avoid situations that you know will bring about undue anxiety and remove yourself from situations if you know what they’re leading to.
N-Say “No” within 5 seconds. “No. In the name of Jesus Christ, I will not be anxious.”
T-Turn your mind towards Christ. Think about what he’s done for you and who he is.
H-Hold on to those thoughts. Keep holding. Hold on tight!
E-Enjoy! Get to a point where you have been holding your thoughts so tightly that you begin to enjoy and savor Christ.
M-Move into a useful activity (hence, my reading/exercise goals).

I seem to get stuck on H. I turn my mind towards Christ, but I just don’t hold on long enough.
Not too long ago, I was home alone when I was hit with a big dose of anxiety. I called Dan, and he told me to open my bible to Psalm 23 and to keep on reading it until my holding turned into enjoying. No joke…I repeated Psalm 23 for 2 hours straight. And in the process, I memorized it (why I hadn’t memorized the 23rd Psalm before that night is beyond me, but c’est la vie…) That night, I decided that I had to memorize more scripture. So this year, I am hoping to memorize the book of Philippians. Which brings me to…

Spiritual
I’m starting a study on Philippians…Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Joyful.” I love the subtitle of the study…”Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy.” Story of my life right now. I desparately need joy, and I need to find it in Christ. Thank you, Warren Wiersbe.

I’m also hoping to read through the bible this year. Not to “say I’ve done it.” I really really want to. I’m trying a chronological study in hopes that it’ll be a better fit than last year’s. I am not the type that can read 4 different books at once. Can you say overwhelming? The chronological plan seems to fit my style a bit better. One chunk at a time.

So that’s where I’m headed in 2011. A few days ago, Dan and I were talking about how all the bloggers seem to have “theme words” for 2011. Dan decided his would be “brilliant.” I thought there might be some “brilliant” meaning behind that word choice, so Iasked him what it was, but he said it was just the first word that came to mind. Ha. I actually came up with my word for the coming year. No surprise here…

JOY.

And my prayer to go along with it (from Psalm 51)…

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.


BRING ON THE JOY!

D-Day

So it’s official. A day that I will never forget. November 30, 2010. The day my parents divorced.

Dan called me during lunch today and asked how I felt. There’s no real way to answer that, but I tried my best to explain. “It’s like knowing someone is going to die. You’re expecting it, you’ve tried your best to brace yourself. But the minute you hear those words…you still feel like someone knocked the wind out of you. You still mourn and grieve. You’re still devasted by the loss.”

This may sound “morbid”, but I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now. What will I write on that day? Will I even want to write? What would I even title something like that? And every time I thought about it, “D-Day” popped into my mind. I wasn’t even sure what that meant to me until today…

D-Day.

Divorce. Depression. Disaster. Disguist. Disgrace. Disobedience. Denial. Distress. Division. Derision. Darkness. Danger. Defeat. Destruction. Desolation.

These D’s don’t need any explanation. Just devastating.

But there are other D’s…

D-Day.

Devotion.
Today, I stand more devoted to my Lord God and to my husband.

Depth.
Today, I am deeper in love with God. He is faithful. He is true. He will never break his covenants. Romans says “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Discipline.
Today, I can say that I know the meaning and value of “church discipline.” I can also say that I now see the importance of discipline in my own life. Hebrews 12:11 says “For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those have been trained by it.” This is a lifelong race. I need to start training.

Delight.
Over the past year, I have dealt with a great deal of depression and anxiety. No more! Today, I find delight. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and yours words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16.

Defend.
Today, I reaffirm my commitment to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim 6:12) and to defend and protect my marriage. Ephesians 6 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”

Desire.
Today, in the midst of my sorrow, I find myself desiring God. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73

Dawn.
Today, I dare to believe that I still have reason to sing. This song has given me great hope over the past few months…

“Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.” Psalm 112:4

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Dancing.
Today, I dance. I find great comfort in these verses from Psalm 30, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” HE will turn my mourning into dancing. HE will loose my sackcloth and clothe me in gladness. I don’t have to do it on my own. Let’s boogie.

Daughter.
Today, I am thankful for my earthly father and mother. I am thankful that they raised me in the ways of the Lord. I am thankful that I grew up in a Christian home. I am thankful that we went to church and prayed as a family. While I’ll never understand their divorce, I am thankful.

More importantly, I am thankful that I am a daughter redeemed. Blessed be the Lord, for he has not left me this day without a redeemer. Hallelujah! I’m adopted. My father, my redeemer. I am truly a daughter redeemed.

No More Night

I am extremely thankful this Thanksgiving season.

I don’t remember ever being as thankful as I am this Thanksgiving. It seems odd to me, since this has been one of my most difficult seasons of life, but I just can’t stop giving thanks. And with that being said, today, I am especially thankful for…

No More Night.

When Dan and I first started dating, I brought him to a Gaither Homecoming Concert for his birthday (go ahead…you can laugh). One of the reasons we were so excited for the concert (go ahead…laugh again) was that David Phelps would be singing. He is still one of our favorites to this day. And one of my favorite David Phelps songs is “No More Night.” A beautiful reminder of the hope we have as Christians.

On Sunday, we attended a Thanksgiving service with some friends, and one of the men who spoke said that he was thankful for “the now, the never and the not yet.” The “not yet” being the day when there will be “no more night.”

In a time when I feel as though the night will never go away and the dawn will never come, I am thankful for these promises in Revelations:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’…No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Amen and amen! “For the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

The beautiful “No More Night” by David Phelps

The timeless theme, Earth and heaven will pass away,
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day.
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell.
Evil is banished to eternal hell.

No more night. No more pain.
No more tears. Never crying again.
And praises to the “Great I AM.”
We will live in the light of the risen lamb.

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing.
The only sound is the praises to Christ our King.
Slowly the names from the book are read.
I know the King, so there’s no need to dread.

No more night. No more pain.
No more tears. Never crying again.
And praises to the “Great I AM.”
We will live in the light of the risen lamb.

See over there, there’s a mansion prepared just for me.
Where I will live with my savior eternally.

No more night. No more pain.
No more tears. Never crying again.
And praises to the “Great I AM.”
We will live in the light of the risen lamb.

The Family Worship Basket

For the past few months or so, Dan and I have had what we call “family worship times.” They’re not overly consistent (we’re working on that!), but when we do have them…oh, how they refresh my soul! We typically start out by singing a few hymns or praise songs while Dan plays his acoustic guitar. Then we’ll either look at a passage of scripture together or use Tabletalk magazine as a devotional. And we end with a time of prayer.

Not too long ago, we had a family worship time, and I realized I was running all over the house trying to find our family bible, the hymnal, our binder full of worship songs, etc. So I decided to gather all of the items in one central location so that I wouldn’t be searching in the future. The result? Our family worship basket. And let me tell you, I LOVE it.
It’s such a simple idea, but I just love having a special place for our family worship materials. I can just picture our kids (Lord willing!) scampering over to the worship basket to get the family bible and song book so that Daddy can lead us in a time of worship. It brings a smile to my face!

This is a really easy project. All you need is a basket…

I like baskets with liners. They’re great because you can switch out the liner for different seasons!

Then add your worship resources. Here’s what’s in our basket…

Our Family Bible (a wedding gift to ourselves)

A Hymnal (I might have accidentally swiped this from my childhood church…)

Worship music binder (full of chord sheets from our years of leading worship together)

Tabletalk Magazine (started getting this for Dan as a V-Day gift long ago…)

And voila! You have yourself a family worship basket.

What items would you put in your family worship basket?