Thursday, September 18, 2014

{phfr} Random Tomatoes and A Bicycle Built for Two


Last weekend, I had the privilege to go to a Women's Retreat through my church. It's just another of the ways that being involved in a church has truly helped me find community. And also, I mean, look at those views! 


I didn't get a picture, unfortunately, but I did get a chance to ride on a tandem bike (a bicycle built for two!) a couple of times this week. It was so much fun! Someone donated it to Camp... I hope that we'll have lots of people use it. Or maybe I'll just use it. I have a new favorite way to ride a bicycle.

We stopped at the gas station for a regular old fill up the other day, and got these with the price of gas. 

I love living in a small town.

Motor oil all over my husband. 

Well, I guess this one's another "work shirt..."

And upon seeing this picture, I'm realizing that I should cut Zeke's hair... 

Have a happy Thursday! (And how did it get to be Thursday already, anyway?)

Linked up with Like Mother Like Daughter

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Growing in Faith with Spiritual Disciplines

So, okay, now what?

You recognize that this time of singleness may actually be a colossal opportunity, that you can spend this time committing more and more to the God who loves you to death (and actually did love you to death- death on a cross). That learning how to be a whole person in Christ is the focus right now.

And we've done some reading about it, and some chewing on it. Now it's time to start to put it into action.

We can't truly change or grow until we actually do something about it.

Enter spiritual disciplines.

And before you click away because the term "spiritual disciplines" sounds like something from the dark ages--

Trust me here. It's important.

Developing strong habits, positive character changes, testing out that "self-control" muscle in your soul- these are extremely important parts of growing in Christ. Growing in Christ has no marital status requirements; to be sure, in all honesty, I've found it to be more difficult to practice spiritual disciplines while married than when I was single. I wish that I'd committed them to routine and habit much more firmly when I was single.

We know that we've done nothing to deserve salvation, no. Salvation was freely given to us by a loving God, but we are supposed to grow. Salvation is often compared to re-birth, and new Christians as infants- but just as humans don't remain infants forever, neither should we remain as newborns in our lives of faith.

1 Peter 2:2-3: "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."
2 Peter 3:18: "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
The way we grow, the means of maturing in faith, is by walking in Him. 
Colossians 2:6-7: "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude."

The term "spiritual disciplines" is one way to describe habits that can really help us to walk in Him. We're going to take some time the next week or so to break down three of the disciplines- the basics, if you will. And I'll give you some resources to help and inspire you.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Acorns and the Sky is Falling


My flowers have started blooming again, despite the bunny rabbits. 


Acorns crunching underfoot (and smacking me in the head as I walk under those huge oak trees... but that's not quite as happy...)


One of the benefits of living right on site is that I can see my office from my house.  The other day, I realized that I'd left the office light on at Camp. Whoops. So I sent Zeke to go grab some milk from the main kitchen, went and got my keys, and headed to the office to turn out the light. 

Zeke was hiding, in the dark, in the welcome center... and jumped out at me when I walked in. 

Apparently, I looked super scared... I jumped and jangled my keys at him and then froze.

I tried getting him back for a couple of hours... but he just doesn't scare as easily! 


So, I really wanted to bring this guy home... 

But timing wasn't right and I knew the timing wasn't right but I got my hopes all up anyway. And when once again, I was disappointed by wanting and not receiving, it hurt and sort of emphasized, once again, the whole none-in-the-oven thing.  Which makes me feel just a little like everything is crashing down around my head. 

So, you know, pray for over-dramatic little me who spent last night running around going, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" (Not literally. But almost.) I just feel a little like I'm running through a pool full of jello. Stuck in place, no matter what I want.


Of course, that pales in comparison to the loss experienced on this day thirteen years ago in New York and Pennsylvania. Keep those families in your prayers today, too! 

Have a fantastic weekend, all! 

Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more PHFR!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Identity In Christ

One of the hardest things to grasp in the Christian life, in my opinion, is an identity firmly rooted in Christ.

Most of the time, we identify ourselves by what we do, what we've accomplished, what we have, and yes, even our relationship status.

Now, don't get me wrong here- none of those things are bad. Those things describe us, but they are not who we are. I may be a baseball player (ha, yeah, right)... but what happens when the season is over, or if I get hurt and can't play? Do I lose my identity? I would hope not.

One of the biggest things I had to learn during my time of singleness was who I am. From where my identity stems. (To be honest, it's a lesson we constantly learn, even after we're no longer single. I'm still working on it, myself.)

See, I know that my inner being should be who I am in Christ.

That seems so vague, though. Identifying myself as a wife is easy- I have a husband. I can identify as a teacher- I worked hard to earn a teaching license, and have experience in the classroom.

The trouble is, our identity in Christ isn't something that we achieve. It's something that we've received. And I think part of the issue with identifying ourselves as in Christ is that I didn't do anything to become in Christ. 

And as we've established, I have trouble accepting that impossible grace.

I think that firstly, it's essential for us to learn this concept- no matter what I do, what I accomplish, who I'm dating, my relationships or titles, first and foremost, I'm IN CHRIST.

What does the Bible say about who we are?

1. I am chosen. (Ephesians 1:11)

2. My reason for being is to bring praise to God. (Ephesians 1:12)

3. I am free from the bondage of sin. (Romans 6)

4. I have a new family of believers- I'm no longer defined by the choices of my parents or siblings.

5. I am loved fiercely by a God who knows more than I know. I can trust that He knows what's best for me. 

6. I am a gift to God to serve His purposes. (Ephesians 4)

7. I can do anything because God is with me always. (Phil 4:13)

and there are so, so many more.

Here's the thing- you don't have to become any of those things. You already are those things.

Life changes so quickly, and the way we describe ourselves changes right with it. Jobs, our interests, where we live, the way we look, our relationships... all those things are very likely to shift and morph throughout the course of our lives.

But identity in Christ? That will stay firm. Even in the storms of life, if we know who we are in Him, we'll have a solid foundation.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Changing with the Seasons: Summertime Planning Binder

Camp works in seasons. There's summer season (which is busy, busy, busy), fall retreat season, winter season, spring retreat season... and then we're back to summer. Each season has a different feel, a different need of organization, different structure.

This past year, I've been reminded that my planner has to change with the seasons, too.

My planner did not work for me this summer. I barely looked at it. And my life this summer felt... rushed. Disorganized. Unintentional.

So, a la Homemaker's Daily, I decided to figure out what was going on and how I can improve my planner for the summer season.

The Good:

1. Dummy-and-crazy-busy-proof. Writing my pages to include my morning schedule (even the "duh" stuff) helped remind me of my routine even on those days when I'd forget to eat. Because summer.

2. Open-ended Daily pages. The only things on my daily pages were my routines (morning, end of the workday, right after work, and evening), and a section for appointments and a section for tasks. I scribbled stuff indiscriminately on the rare occasion that I used my planner, and it worked pretty well to have a lack of structure.

The Bad:

1. Too much time at work meant little time for personal tasks. I spend a lot of time in my office during the summer, and very little time at home. I guess I sort of felt like it was a waste of time to write, "Fold laundry" in my planner if it was the only thing I could accomplish on that day. In the fall, I wrote down work tasks that sprung into my mind before bed into a "Work" section in my planner, but there's just too much going on in the summer to do that- and transferring it to my work planner is a hassle.

2. No room on my desk. With all the summer stuff going on, post-it's galore, my work planner open on my desk, and an average of 3 coffee cups sitting there at all times, there wasn't much room for my personal planner to be out and open as well.

3. No meals and few finances to note. The only personal planning I really needed this summer was my calendar (barely), my blogging notes, and a daily tasks section. There was just too much in my planner for the summer season.

4. Too many notes in too many places. Since I was writing down most of my daily/work tasks in my work planner, it didn't make sense to also make notes in my personal planner unless it was a definitely personal task/reminder. And to make matters worse, I also have to keep a digital calendar online so my co-workers have access to it. There were notes in tons of places- too many to keep track of!

The Plan:
Next summer, here's what I'd like to change.
  • First, I don't think it's good for me mentally to be so focused on work stuff. I need to take care of my home in the summer, too! Of course, that doesn't have anything to do with my planner. But it's a change, nonetheless. 
  • Next summer, I'll go ahead and simply remove the sections that I don't need for the summer- putting them into a file in my office for when the off-season rolls around again. There's no sense lugging around extra paper that I don't need.
  • I also need to do some prep before June 1 hits. Removing sections is one thing to help me get ready for the summer, but I've also got to make sure I have calendars ready to be used. I didn't even have my calendar pages created for the summer! Ah!
  • And, to solve #2, #4, and a little of #1...

Using a post-it in my personal planner makes it really easy for me to transfer it over to my work binder without re-writing, which makes it easy for me to see the day's tasks (at work AND at home) all on the same page. I'm an "out of sight, out of mind" kind of person, so even though I can't clean the bathroom while I'm at work, I can remember that cleaning the bathroom is on the docket for the day.

Regular post-it's are a little too small, so I love these ones.

And now my personal tasks are in my work binder. Ta Da!
I actually started using the post-it idea in late August, when I was so overwhelmed and out of whack that I decided that I HAD to do SOMETHING to bring back my organization! Had to!

Of course, now that I've got summer stuff all figured out, summer's over... time to plan for the Fall!

How do you stay organized and on top of stuff during the summer? What worked for you this year, and what will you change for next year?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

God's Presence in Singleness: Guest Post

It's hard to feel God's presence when you're in a holding pattern. Trusting God, finding His goodness in the small moments, even when things don't seem to go according to your own plan... it's really hard. 

Waiting to find "the one" is a daunting, exhausting, and often incredibly disappointing. (And the idea of "the one" is another thing we're going to get into later, but that's another post for another day.) 

Last week, Bianca pointed out that this time of singleness is an opportunity- that while we're single, we have an opportunity to wholeheartedly serve God in a way that isn't always possible when we're married. But how does our attitude get to that point? Our minds might know that truth, but getting our hearts to catch up is a difficult thing. 

Victor is a seminary student studying biblical counseling. He also happens to be a good friend of mine. Victor's dealt with a lot of hard things when it comes to relationships, but I've always admired his ability to keep God central in his life, even in the tough stuff. I asked Victor to share a little about what this time of singleness has taught him.

A few years ago I found myself at a crossroads in life. I was in a relationship that had become physically immoral and spiritually destructive. The relationship itself was dying and I knew things had to end by my hand. My girlfriend at the time was willing to do whatever it took to keep things alive, even to her own spiritual detriment. However, a choice was pressed upon me in my spirit by counsel of wise people in my life, and from God.

If I chose to stay in that situation I would end up cutting myself off from God. But if I want to mend my relationship with God it meant cutting off my girlfriend and jumping into the deep abyss I have hated with a passion since I hit puberty- singleness.

Would you rather be single with Jesus by your side, or have an immoral relationship (one that you know should end) without His presence?

To quote V. Mary Stewart, “I wanted God’s Spirit more than I wanted transient physical titillation.”

I chose to end the relationship, and embarked on this new journey God had called me to. It was a situation I can’t say I ever saw myself in when I was younger. I was convinced in earlier years that I would be married by now. And yet God had called me to end my relationship with my girlfriend, and make Him the center of why I exist.

This new chapter in life wasn’t an easy one, and I found myself living with all the issues of loneliness and depression I didn’t want to deal with. I was afraid of the future, filled with all manner of pain and bitterness from my relationship, and felt very, very alone.

I think this is where a lot of singles find themselves now days. We’re alone and afraid of the future. As much as we try to drown out our fears and frustrations with the toys of life we find ourselves not finding answers.

Is that where you are right now?

I’ve found that as much as I pray and ask God to give me a spouse and lead me to the promise land of marriage, He seems to want to correct my thinking. His highest goal for my life doesn’t seem to include giving me what I want when it seems most sensible to have it. In the past I rejected His guidance by dating people I shouldn’t have been with, becoming addicted to pornography, and living life as best I could to mask the deep pain I had from my own loneliness. But God wanted to tell me it was time to put away the toys of the world and start drinking the deep wine of His presence.

He wants to give me Himself. I think the only way He can actually do that is take away what I refuse to let go of. For the longest time I’ve held on to the ideal of finding a person to settle down with. In my
relationships I’ve obviously demonstrated by my behavior what mattered most to me. I wanted intimacy with a person more than I wanted it with God. Being single now gives God the opportunity to show how broken I really am.

We are broken people, there’s no hiding the fact that many of us feel like messes nobody can fix. We look at our loneliness, fears, and other issues we have and sometimes think maybe the answer is to have a life to share with someone else.

It’s sad, but people are still lonely when they get married. They still find that their inner restlessness doesn’t go away. As time goes on, the issues they refused to deal with when single now come to haunt them while married. If we don’t have peace now, the stress of marriage won’t help. If we don’t have any joy, our ephemeral emotions will only make things worse. If we can’t actually love another person right now, we’ll destroy lives in our own selfishness. We don’t need to master the single life, We need to sacrifice our lives right now for God’s purposes that will bear three fruit I know I want badly: love, joy, and peace.

Do you have peace? Can you actually sleep at night? Do you find yourself restless and with many anxieties running through your mind?

Do you have any joy? Is there pleasure coming from sensing the presence of God in your life? Do you delight to do His will? (Psalm 40:8)

Do you have any desire to truly love another person? I’m not just talking about being romantically linked, I mean actually making the personal sacrifice to see other people as ends in themselves, not a means to yours.

We need to take our lives to the cross. What I mean by this is we need to pour out our needs and issues before God, knowing full well He is the healer we need to make us whole creatures again. I want to be capable of just trying to loving a spouse if I’m given one. But for that to even be possible God is calling me to let go of my desires and dreams and entrust them to Him.

That means I let go of my wish to meet a girl right now, get married and start a life together. It means to understand God is the creator of the human sex drive and His authority over that needs to be put into practice now, not when I’m married. It means I need to learn that God is the one who knows me most intimately and perfectly. All romance and pleasure of romantic love are merely shadows of what is waiting in God’s presence.

Are we willing to take our fears of being single, the pains of loneliness, and the urgings of the body, and submit them to God’s caring authority?

Start doing it in prayer. Begin by asking God to fill you with His presence, and make Himself known to you. Come to Him with scriptures that are filled with His promises and pray to Him for your needs. Psalm 145 says, “He fulfills the desire of every living thing.” Philippians 4 said His transcendent peace would overcome our anxieties and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Genesis 2 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Psalm 16 says in “His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Do you believe this? Take your life to God, and open up everything to Him. Talk to your Father about your day, cast upon Him your anxieties (1 Peter 5), put forward all your doubts, fears, and pains that come from life. But also come to Him boldly, knowing full well that God is good, and any doubts we have should be submitted to His will for our lives. (There’s nothing wrong with being honest to God about our doubts, but to actually doubt that He will do what He says is to give in to the temptation of the enemy, and should be repented of. Satan does not want you to live your life by the conviction of the truth that God is good.)

I’ve found something in the last few years I never thought I would find. I’m learning what it’s like to sense contentment while single. I am not content with being single, I’m content with the presence of God in my life. His presence gives a peace and joy that transcends the pain that comes from being single. He didn’t take away the trials of life that come from being a single, He’s started to show me His purposes behind them. The purpose behind all things is to lead us to Him.

I know that whether I’m married or single the purpose of both lives is the same. To know Christ. We marrieds and singles come about that purpose from different angles. But I have joy knowing that right now I’m learning how to live the life God has for me, and it doesn’t wait for marriage.

Have you started the journey yet? Have you decided to throw yourself into the pursuit of God determined to find Him regardless of whether you end up married or single? Offer up your relational future to His hands, and draw joy from knowing that while He didn’t promise we would get what we asked for, He would give us what we truly desire. We will be given peace and rest from our cares, joy from His presence, and we will be taught to love as He loves us. Don’t wait until your married to make the purpose of your life the pursuit of Jesus. 

Start now so when you do get married it will become a story of two people on the same journey to their Savior who was already making them whole people; wholly devoted to Him before they even met.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What "Enough" Looks Like Lately

My small group started a new book for this Fall. I love my group, I love the ladies in it, and I love the community that I've found through this group... but I was a little uncertain about the book, to be honest.

I can be a "book snob" when it comes to small groups or book clubs. I like reading things that are a little outside the box- when there's a book that everyone is reading and everyone recommends, the popularity actually turns me away from it.

So when it was announced that we'd be reading a book that I'd heard a lot about, that a bunch of people have said "changed their lives," a book that many people have told me that I should read... I thought, Oh no... I'm gonna hate this. But I love my group, and I trust them, so even though I was a little hesitant, I got the book.

A couple of months ago, I came up with a word for 2014. Different from a resolution, this one word was supposed to help me focus on a theme, a topic that I wanted to improve upon for the year. I chose the word "Enough." I was really struggling with feeling like I'm not enough just the way I am.

But then, as things do over the course of a year, things changed.

Feeling like I'm not enough wasn't the struggle anymore, so much. Nope.

As the months went on and it became clearer that we will struggle to have children, I became less concerned about being enough, and more certain that I didn't have enough. I don't have enough life in my home, I don't have a healthy enough system to allow a pregnancy, I don't have enough time.

Deep in the recesses of my heart, a whisper of doubt started to erode my soul, to steal my joy, to make me ungrateful.

God doesn't love me enough.

And while I try to fight back against that whisper, tried to focus on the good and drown out that slippery voice, it lingers. It's a thorn that festers and tears at the fabric of my life.

I started reading the book for small group last week. I was sitting on the couch, reading Chapter One for our Monday small group meeting, and Zeke sat on the couch next to me on Craigslist. (Is your husband a Craigslist junkie? Mine has been looking for goats recently. I have no idea.)

Anyway. I started reading through the chapter, and came across this line:

"Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn't: holes, lack, deficiency."

I burst into tears. (And made poor Zeke the goat-finder a very confused man.)

Because that's what I've been dealing with. That's what I've been feeling. Those big black holes in my vision are stealing my joy, are making me feel like God doesn't love me enough.

And she put it so perfectly into words. She took my hurt and the stuff I'm struggling with and she named it, made me feel like she understood and wanted to help- that she'd figured out how to heal those holes a little bit.

That's what "Enough" has looked like for me, lately. It's not about me anymore, no. It's about the fact that God has so richly blessed me, given me such good gifts- so much more than enough. He's more than enough. I'm learning (slowly learning) to see that again.

(If you're curious, this is the book my group is reading. I can't put it down. Seriously.)

How are you doing with your resolutions? Throughout this year, have they morphed like mine has?

This post is linked with Amateur Nester.