Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Breaking Free

Last night I started a Bible study called Breaking Free by Beth Moore.  I have never done a Beth Moore study, but the ladies in my group had some really great things to say about her and her other studies.  I enjoyed the introductory video we watched, and I'm looking forward to hearing more.

However, I have to admit I'm a little nervous about Breaking Free.  But first let me share a description of the study from LifeWay:

"This in-depth women's Bible study draws parallels between the captive Israelites of the Old Testament and New Testament believers in Jesus as the Promised Messiah. Beth looks at the Book of Isaiah through the lives of the kings who ruled during the prophet's ministry. These kings exemplify many of the obstacles to freedom with which we must deal. Using Scripture to help identify spiritual strongholds in your life, no matter how big or small, Beth explains that anything that hinders us from the benefits of knowing God is bondage."

My first instinct is to say, "I'm not in bondage; I'm not a captive desperate to be set free," and then proclaim this study isn't for me.  But that's too easy.  Notice the last sentence of the description above: "...spiritual strongholds in your life, no matter how big or small...anything that hinders us from the benefits of knowing God is bondage."  Anything.

Okay.  Anything.  ...Like beating myself up for yelling at my kids after I told myself I wasn't going to do it again.  Or when God moves me to say something in Sunday school or to a friend and I bite my tongue for fear of what others might think.  Or when there's an opportunity to serve set in front of me and I hesitate, hoping someone else will volunteer first.  Or when I spend hours on the computer and watching TV, or even doing housework for that matter, while putting off reading God's word.

So maybe I'm not so free.  Free's a little scary to me.  I'm reserved, I like consistency, I play it safe, and I like to be comfortable.  Being "free" intimidates me, but I feel like I'm close if I can open up and let myself be vulnerable.  I feel I'm in that place where my chains have been broken but I'm still lurking in the shadows, trying to work up the courage to push my toes out into the sunlight and take that first step.

I pray that Breaking Free provides the push that I need, as well as the push each of the other women signed up for the study needs.  I can't speak for them, but I think my biggest obstacle is to actually let myself be set free.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." (Isaiah 61:1-3)


Monday, January 14, 2013

Life Happens

Things happen to us all the time.  Things we love and things we don't.  Sometimes it feels like the things we don't love happen to us a little too often, but I have a theory it's just because we have too many "plans" for our own lives to be comfortable with any deviation.  Well, that's the case for me anyway.
But again, things happen.  Life happens.  That's just the way it is.  And then life goes on.  No matter what happens, good or bad, no matter how it affects us, and no matter how long it lasts, life still goes on.  And I think it's beautiful!
I am the queen of making plans, holding high expectations, and setting myself up for disappointment.  I've gotten a little better over the years, but I still have a long way to go.  However, there is one important thing I've learned:  I can't change life from "happening."  And there's no use in trying.
What I can do is love Jesus, praise God for everything in my life, and enjoy my time with my family and others, no matter the circumstances.
So where is this coming from?
The last 6 years (and 1 day).
Yesterday was my 6th wedding anniversary.  I'm sure many couples can relate, but a LOT has happened in those 6 years (and 1 day), much of which I definitely did not plan, or even remotely expect!  And I've spent a lot of time since our wedding day complaining about things that happened, things that didn't happen, and wishing something were different.
(Okay, let me be honest here.  I think there will always be something about life I wish was different, but I've learned that that's okay...As long as I don't bank my happiness on that one thing changing or let my discontent affect my general attitude or my faith!)
I'm not going to get into all the things that have changed or haven't gone according to plan, but I will share a few specific times that have taught me an important lesson.
First let me begin with my wedding day, the first day of our adventure.  It got icy.  It wasn't the most ideal weather, but hey, it was the middle of January after all.  I felt nervous and sick the entire day.  My stomach was so knotted up I couldn't even enjoy the food or cake at our reception.  And I tried to plan around other people's convenience (minus the dangerous driving conditions) rather than solely focusing on my husband and myself.  Needless to say, my wedding day did not go exactly as I had envisioned.  But I learned to focus on the important things, which turns out isn't a wedding at all - it's following through on your promises to God and to each other every day after you say "I do."
10 months later my husband and I found out our son was on the way!   This wasn't in our plans, but was a very welcome surprise!  I learned the importance of God's timing and that not all surprises are bad!  (I'm generally not a fan of surprises...the unexpected...deviations from "my" plans...)
About 2 years after that we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our daughter, and one month before she was born, my husband tore his achilles tendon which required surgery.  Then shortly after he was off his crutches and healing well, we found out my husband had testicular cancer.  Let me point out that this happened on our anniversary.  The next day, 2 years ago today, he had surgery to remove it.  (This is why I included the "and 1 day" above.  It was a VERY important day in our history together!)
Praise the Lord the Dr. found it, removed it, and that's been the end of it to date.  My husband has been cancer free for 2 years!  But it was a stressful time, as you can imagine, with my husband's health issues and a newborn too!  I learned so many things during this time, but the biggest lesson was a lesson of faith.  My faith has been stronger than ever since then and because of then!
But today, ironically, exactly 2 years after his surgery, we spent the day in the hospital again.  It was my turn for surgery.  Don't worry, NOT cancer!  My surgery was very minor and I am doing very well, but it was pretty nerve-racking when it was scheduled for this date.  And yesterday I spent my anniversary eating jello and drinking liquids to prepare.  No fancy anniversary dinner here!  Today taught me to be flexible.  My husband and I have decided to "reschedule" our anniversary this year.  We're not sure when yet, but we're going to pick another day to celebrate together.  And I'm perfectly okay with that.  ...As long as there's no jello ;)
So folks, life happens.  And it truly is beautiful, because if you allow it, it's all part of God's plan.  No matter how bad something seems at the moment, if it's part of God's plan, it's got to be good, because He is good.  He is so good!
My advice to you and myself (take it or leave it) is to let life happen.  Savor every moment.  Thank God for every moment.  Let God pull you through, and be open to the lessons presented to you.  Then let life go on and you will be very blessed indeed!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Off to a Slow Start

Okay.  We're 8 days into the new year, and remember that new plan I shared with you a few weeks ago?  Well, it's still just a plan.  And I've continued to expand my plan, but I haven't actually set any goals yet, and I definitely haven't made any progress!
I guess you could say I'm off to a slow start.  A very slow start.  But at least I have 51 weeks to redeem myself!  ...Right?
Well, the first part of my plan was to set goals.  My intention behind this part of the plan is to specify things I want to change or accomplish and then outline steps to make it happen.
So here are some goals I'd like to reach this year:
Interact with my kids more.  There are many times when I catch myself saying, "not now sweetheart," or "I'm busy right now," or "maybe later," to my kids.  And some nights after I lay the kids down for bed, I have a hard time remembering what we actually did together that day.  So it's not that I don't want to interact with my kids, it's that I have my priorities mixed up and lack good time-management skills. 
Get back on track with menu-planning.  I began menu planning shortly after my now 4 year old started solid foods.  I made all of his baby food and tried to make meals for myself and my husband that I could mash or puree for him.  We also lived way out in the country at that time and trips into town weren't that easy anymore with a baby in tow.  So I got to know my grocery store, I made lists, and I only went shopping about every 3 weeks or so.  I had a pretty good system going.  And then my daughter was born...and it hasn't been the same since!
Find ways to cut our budget.  Last Fall my husband and I enrolled in the Financial Peace University course by Dave Ramsey.  We've since then created a budget and keep track of our spending each month.  We've done a pretty good job, and we're definitely living within our means, but I want to do even better.  I want to find ways to spend less and save (and give) more.
Spend more quality time with my husband.  Due to my husband's work responsibilities and simply the season of life we're in, we don't get to spend a whole lot of time together.  And we're both bad about not making the most of the time we do have together.  That needs to change!  I don't really know how to make more time for each other at this point, but I know we can do better at making our time together count.
Better my relationship with God.  Every Christian can always better their relationship with God, and I am no exception!  I already know of a few Bible studies I'm participating in this year, which I'm sure I'll enjoy and learn a lot from.  But I need to do better in reading and studying God's word on my own, every day.  I also need to pray more.  Prayer is our means of communication with God, and communication is essential to building strong relationships.  Another way I'd like to better my relationship with God is to step out of my comfort zone.  What better way to get closer to someone than to open up and make yourself vulnerable?
Get more organized in my housework.  I already know how to do this - I just have to actually do it.  I doesn't take long to create a cleaning schedule, but even without a written schedule, I know what needs to be done and when.  My problem is doing it in a timely manner.  My problem is procrastinating and letting my housework pile up.  Then I put myself in a bind when we're expecting company or even just when I do decide to clean, I have a million things to do instead of just a few.  The key is staying on top of things.
Blog more consistently.  If you follow my blog, I've been posting very sporadically for the past month or so.  It's not been on purpose.  I became very busy last month preparing for my daughter's birthday, then Christmas came along, then the neccesary recovery time afterwards, and a lack of inspiration also contributed to the inconsistency.  I really enjoy blogging and have missed it.  I hope to do better from now on!
There are my goals.  This list is not exhaustive and may change.  I probably won't delete anything from this list, but I'll very likely add more when these are accomplished or at least when I'm seeing progress, no matter how imperfect that progress might be.
Now to find some motivation...
Any tips?!?!
I hope 2013 is treating you well so far!