Monday, June 27, 2016

Let's get caught up...

My last blog post was a week before I found out I was pregnant. Needless to say, a lot has changed drastically since then. Being a mom is pretty amazing, I must say. It has its challenges but it also is a lot of fun. I'd like to write some poignant but I feel like so much time has passed that just a quick recap will have to suffice. I've been off work since March 17th, save a few days I went back at the end of the school year. You do not understand the level of boredom you can achieve when stuck at home all day with an infant. Sure, it is fun to sit and binge Netflix but there is only so much you TV one can stand before getting stir crazy. At around four weeks of being stuck in the house, I was brave enough to attempt the mall with a friend. After struggling for a moment with the stroller, life was good but then started the crying of a newborn and the many stares...which really makes you just want to look at the people in Books a Million and say "haven't you ever heard a crying baby before? Go about your business." However, I do not put these thoughts into actual words and instead proceed to breast feed my infant while being covered, of course (wouldn't want to offend anyone, ya know.) Actually the whole reason for being covered is in the event that I see one of my students, cause you know that could get awkward.

After the hump of going to the mall and feeling like a bad parent for taking my baby out at 4 weeks instead of 6 weeks, I began to become more comfortable with taking her out. However, this then created a shopping problem in which we were frequenting the mall at least twice a week to get out of the house. This shopping situation is mostly under control now, however a Carter's just opened in Ashland so all bets are off now. 

While typing this, I am listening for my little one to wake up as she is on her belly in her pack n play. I know, I know...she's on her belly? Another mom fail. If the events in the news lately have shown me anything, it is that parents love to shame one another and make them feel bad for the choices they take when raising their children. Please do not ever let me become one of these moms. We are currently trying to transition E from the rock n play to her crib. Of course, she is now sleeping when I need to run and get some food from a drive thru as I have not been to the grocery store yet. I know, another mom fail. I'll result to eating salt packets or something equivalent before I wake her when she is beginning to sleep longer than 15-30 minute naps. This kid does not like to nap and we all know she does not get that from me as I believe a 3 hour nap is the only way to nap....

Monday, July 13, 2015

Week 5 - Content with Relationships

Hebrews 12:15
"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

This week's chapter was about being content with your relationships by FORGIVING people who wrong you. Finally, something I am actually doing right, I think. I am thankful to find something in this book that I'm currently doing, of course, I can always improve as I discovered while reading these few pages. 

Often times, I have had a lot of people ask me how I am able to forgive and move on so quickly. I am not sure other than to say by God's Grace. I am not able to "forgive and forget" on my own. I use God's Grace. God forgives me and extends grace and mercy to me on a daily basis. I never deserve it and I do not always ask for it nor am I always thankful for it. So if God is forgiving me and extending me grace even when I do not deserve it, the least I can do is extend it to others as well. 

This chapter discussed how holding onto anger and resentment allows us to grow a bitter root and it'll cause trouble for us later. You ever hear the saying "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." How true. 

God has instructed us to forgive one another, just as he forgave his disciples for falling asleep in the garden when he needed them the most or when he forgave Peter for denying he was with Christ or when he asked forgiveness for those who put Him on the cross. We are to forgive one another as many times as it takes. Matthew 18:21. When you think you've forgiven someone enough, do it one more time just to make sure ;) 

So you may be thinking "okay I can forgive them but I'll never speak to them again." Well, that is not necessarily what we are called to do. Yes, we are asked to forgive but we need to extend love and grace to others. Love is a verb so we need to show acts of kindness and love to those who have wronged us. We have to make a conscious choice to not only forgive but to forget and to keep on forgetting even when someone may try to bring it up and suck us back into the argument or dispute. 

We aren't able to control others in our lives but we can control ourselves and how we forgive and how we forget. In order to be content, we cannot have bitterness and resentment in our lives. Life is fleeting and can be over in the blink of an eye, practice forgiving now.

Remember, as Christians, we are suppose to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (the one I struggle with the most). These are all useless unless you exhibit sincere love which binds them all together.

Colossians 3:12-14

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Week 4 - Content with my Role

Week 4 of this book study and I wish I had read this book years ago. It is crazy to see how discontent you could have been without realizing it. I remember when my husband and I were paying off debt to buy our first house and all I could do is keep wishing for time to pass and hurry. How often do we wish for things to be different and forget to give thanks for the things we currently have? Contentment and gratitude go hand in hand. I do not think you can truly be content until you are grateful for all the things you have.

This week's chapter was about being content in your role God has given you. One sentence that stood out from Calm My Anxious Heart was "We need to see our cup as a gift, not a cross." Wow. How many times do we say we "have to do this" and see our circumstances as a "cross to bear" rather than an opportunity from God? We have been given a "trust" from God. A role, purpose, relationships, spiritual gifts, etc. and all God wants us to do is be faithful with what He has entrusted us with. This verse really stood out to me

1 Corinthians 4:2
"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must remain faithful"

God has given us a role for a purpose. God created us for a purpose. We may not always like where are roles are taking us but in order to lead a life of contentment, we must make the choice to focus on the positive aspects of our role. If we are constantly comparing ourselves and complaining, we will live a life of discontentment.

Another verse that stood out to me in the study was 

Matthew 20:28
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Are we glorifying God and serving others with our role?

No crazy revelations this week. Just a message that hit home as I am trying to be content with the role I am currently playing in my life. It is so hard to be patient when your heart is desiring something more. However, God doesn't expect me to always be perfect in my role, he expects me to be faithful.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bible Journaling

I recently have embarked on Bible Journaling. It is a great way to spend time in the Word while exploring my crafty side. I am not the best drawer and I do not have the nicest hand writing but that is okay. I am doing this to learn more about the Bible and to spend time reflecting on God's Word. I have included the various passages I've done thus far below for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Week 3 - Content to be me...

Sorry for the delay in posting this. Part of the reason for the delay is the fact that I have just began Bible Journaling. It is so much fun and it is taking up a lot of my time :) 

Last week, was week 3 in my "Calm My Anxious Heart" study and it was about being content with yourself. Psalms 139 was the focus point of this chapter. Women tend to be the hardest on themselves. We compare our bodies, homes, cooking skills, baking skills, Pinterest skills, careers, etc. to one another. When constantly compare ourselves to someone else, we are missing our own individual beauty. If we always focus on what we do not have, we will miss what God has given us. We should always be thankful for the personality we have and use it to glorify God. 

How refreshing is it to realize God made you the way you are for a purpose? No one can fulfill God's purpose for your life except you. Wow. Before we were even created, God had our days numbered and knew us. This to me is fascinating. We are told to cherish and love ourselves. For we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." I see that sign and decoration in many Pinterest Nurseries but when was the last time we truly said that about ourselves, not just our children or other children? We, too, are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. 

Ephesians 2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." <---- Created for a purpose. He prepared our days before we were even born.

The Proverbs 31 woman is often mentioned. You know THE woman illustrated in Proverbs 31:10-31. She is such an amazing woman. I have read this passage many times; desiring to be like her and constantly comparing myself. However, this past week, I read it with fresh eyes. This woman is not praised for all of the activities she does for her family; she is praised and valued for her spiritual character. Her relationship with God was central which allowed her to be this Godly woman her family loved and adored. How encouraging. 

The most encouraging and inspiring sentence I read this past week was that learning to become content and grateful for all of our circumstances is a "LIFELONG joint process between us and God." I often get discouraged when I feel like all of my bad habits should stop overnight but this gives me hope and encouragement that it is a lifelong process. God hasn't given up on me yet :)

I am not the greatest artist but I enjoy reading and doodling in my journal Bible so I have included the picture below inspired by last week's study. I have added the two journal entries to my previous two blog entries as well for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Week Two - Mud or Stars?

Thanks for continuing on this journey of contentment and calming my anxious heart with me. Once again, if you're looking for a crafty post, this is not it. Unless you count working on myself as a craft, which it definitely is. Learning to be content and not anxious is a process and one that I believe I fail at most days. I strongly urge anyone who has problems with being anxious or lack of contentment, read this book! If you have a Kindle, it's only about $10. You spend more than that out to eat! If you do not have a kindle, you can order it online for roughly the same cost. Anyway, enough free publicity...let's move onto what I've learned this week.

When we categorize the circumstances in our life, they fit into two categories, "positive" and "negative." What list do we spend most of our time dwelling over? In the book, this example is used

"Two women looked through prison bars, one saw mud and the other saw stars."

Wow, how important our perspective is for our lives and circumstances. What do we choose to focus on, the mud or the stars by lifting our eyes? To me, this was such a powerful metaphor. How often am I, personally, looking down at the mud and not lifting my eyes to see the stars? How often do we go about our daily lives thinking about what's next or what if's when we should be focusing on the then and now.

This chapter in the book was learning to be content with our circumstances. We all have bad things that happen in our lives. How we respond to them can really make an impact on others. I have had my fair share of tragedies and storms in my life, just as everyone has, but rather than focusing on the pain, I pray that my circumstances will allow me to focus on God even more. I want the pain to not be wasted, as mentioned in the chapter, but I want it to be used to draw me closer to God and to allow me to help others who have or will go through similar storms in their lives.

The main thing I took away from this week's study was that learning to be content is not only a heart choice but it is a process, something that takes practice. Practicing a skill is not always easy, think of any sport, activity, etc. you've learned over the years, they didn't always come easy (at least not for me). We have to make a conscious effort to pray rather than be anxious. I do not know about you but for me, this is hard work. As mentioned in last week's post, I am a control freak. I admit it and I am not good at letting go. I am working on this daily and to some degree, I have improved (well, some days are easier than others...). I want to learn to pray about the problem rather than worrying about the problem. Why waste my time and energy worrying about something I have no control over? Worrying leads to complaining, something else that is an undesirable characteristic trait.

In Philippians 4:7, God promises to us that if we pray to Him when anxious or worried, He'll grant us peace.  Well, for me that is awesome for the two minutes after I pray right before I start obsessing again. This happen to anyone else? I pray, feel relieved, then I worry again. However, this does not mean God is not doing His part. It means I am relinquishing on my end of the bargain, you know, the part where I'm not suppose to worry?!? Yeah, totally failed that two minutes after my prayer and conscious efforts. However, this book gives a clear example of this happening to the author too. I am telling you, it is like I wrote this book with all of the examples she provided. The author explains that when this continues to happen to her (which it always seems to happen at night, do you notice that too?), she will pray again, then if she is still worrying a few minutes later, she gets out of bed and makes a list of everything she is thankful for and dwells on the positives, then she is ready for bed. My prayer is I remember to do this tonight when I inevitably cannot sleep because I am worried about 100x things.

While studying this week, I was reading the verses suggested in the book but then I must have transposed a number or God really wanted me to read a specific verse because I read this and felt it fit right in:

Romans 12:12 "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."

As I am reading this post, I realize the majority of it is a jumbled mess. Sometimes I wish I could be more eloquent with the words I wish to get out of my mind but my fingers appear to type faster than my brain can formulate what I want to say. I'm not going to change it, I feel it is more real this way.

This week, I'll continue my journey to contentment and I'll try to leave behind my anxious heart. I know I'll fail daily, but thankfully, I have a God who will help pick me back up and forgive me. I'm going to practice shifting my attitude rather than trying to change every negative circumstance in my life. I am going to practice these four things that Paul suggests in Philippians 4:6-8

1. Choose to give my anxieties to God
2. Choose to pray specifically
3. Choose to be thankful
4. Choose to dwell on the positive

My question for you, as it is for myself, are you going to see mud or stars?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week One - Contentment is a state of heart, not of affairs

This blog entry and the weekly ones to follow will be of a different structure than my previous entries. I have recently joined a Bible Study, which starts tonight, where we are reading Calming my Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. I do not know about my friends, family members, and random internet readers but being anxious and discontent is something I often struggle with, often without even realizing it. When I discovered this Bible Study was being offered at my church, I immediately purchased the book and decided to dive in. I am going to try to restrain myself and participate with the others by reading only one chapter per week, as instructed but I do not always follow the rules as I have been reading ahead for weeks and months in my current book club, so we will see how it goes. Anyway, if you're looking for a post about my craftiness, those might be mingled in among these entries but the sole purpose of this blog for the next few weeks will be my journey to calming my anxious heart and learning to lean more heavily on God. Feel free to join me if you'd like, if not, my feelings will not be hurt, mostly because I will not know if you read it anyway :)

Week 1 - From control to content. 
Wow. What a heading. 

When reading this first chapter of the book, I instantly thought...did I write this? Are these my own thoughts filling these pages of my Kindle screen? I knew instantly that this book would be something I would gobble up and retain. This book is applicable in every sense. I do struggle with anxiety whether that is anxiety to follow a schedule, my timeline of events in my life, my work, my grad school, or just every day tasks. Anxiety can consume a person and unfortunately, at times, it has consumed me. The constant nagging of "what if?," "what now?," "how?" plagues me. However, what I did not think about was the link between anxiety and contentment. I strive to be content, I really do but at times, I find myself constantly thinking what next instead of focusing on the here and now.

One quote that stuck with me from this chapter was "contentment is a state of heart, not a state of affairs." Wow. You do not gather contentment from the amount of material items you surround yourself with or even the advancements at your job. While these can be great blessings from God, it does not define who I am as a person or my level of contentment in my life, relationships, etc.

For anyone who knows me, this might come as a complete and total shock [sarcasm], I am a control freak. I admit it and isn't that the first step to being able to fix the problem? I like my schedules. I like my timelines and to-do lists. While this is not always a bad thing, letting it consume you and getting your panties in a twist when something goes off schedule can cause anxiety and can lead to complaining. I don't mean it to but sometimes that train goes off the track and I do not catch myself quickly enough. However, if Paul [Philippians 4:11-13] can learn to be content with his surroundings and his life, why can't I? For a person who loves to be in control, I know it is hard to relinquish it and honestly, at this point, I feel like I am going to fail more than succeed but I hope I can take what I am learning from reading God's Word and apply it in my life. 1 Timothy 6:15 explains that God is the controller of all things, not me. This is a hard concept to grasp when you want things on your own time.

When studying this week, one of the study questions asked us to define contentment in our own words. Contentment to me is the idea and state of being happy and satisfied with what God has given you, good or bad. It is easy to praise God when good things happen in our lives but it is difficult to praise him in the storms. My prayer is to be content with what I have no matter the size or situation. In the book, a missionary listed her five steps to contentment. Among them being "never complain, never compare your lot with another's, never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else, never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise, and never dwell on tomorrow, those are in God's hands." I know which of these I struggle with, how about you?

Edit: I've recently started Bible Journaling :) Here is a picture of week one below: