Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Favorites, and January 2015 Planning Pages



1. My fireplace is finally functional! I think this is my favorite favorite of all- no leaving the best for last going on here. Zeke still has some finishing touches to do- we'll be removing some more of the woodwork (sad, but that's what the insurance company requires), and putting up some great tile, but we can actually use it! And we have been. Every night this week.


2. Once upon a time, I used to take figure skating lessons. I know, I know. I was pretty terrible- I was too scared to actually do any jumps, and my balance was laughable. so spins were pretty much out of the question, but I did skate a lot in high school- I would put in about 5 hours a week at the rink. So when Zeke suggested we go, I was so excited!

Of course, I'm very out of shape and it took a while to get my "ice legs," but it was so much fun.



3. Peppermint hot chocolate in a giraffe mug. Need I say more?


We can just pretend you can't see those cords in the background, kay?

4. My super-creative mother-in-law asked Zeke if he had any old mattresses... and then turned bed springs into Christmas trees. So cute.

5. And (I didn't take a picture of it), but my door of Christmas cards is filling up. I love Christmas cards. There's something so special about getting cards in the mail, and then the glitter and pictures and joy... it's wonderful. Growing up, my folks put all the cards up along the windowsills, and I would spend at least ten minutes a day looking at them. Now that I'm older, I appreciate the little extra burst of color in my house from all the cards, and I take a couple minutes to pray for friends and family a couple times a day. Ah, Christmas cards. I just love 'em. 


<<<>>><<<>>><<<>>>

In other news, in printing out my December planning pages last month, I realized that I really jumbled the last few days of December... so I attached those days to my January 2015 daily planning pages for ya. Sorry about that!


A note about printing: These pages are 8.5 x 5.5 sized, so they should fit in Martha Stewart small format binders, A5 size binders, and Classic size binders. You may need to trim a little.

You will want to print these double sided, flipping on the short end of the paper (or top-to-bottom printing). They'll look a little crazy at first (i.e. the pages don't seem like they're in order) but it should work just fine. After printing, cut the pages in half, and three-hole punch the edge you cut.

Oh, and if you're looking for monthly calendars for 2015, my calendar pages are also available as a free printable!



This post is linked up with Jenna at Call Her Happy for 5 Favorites, today. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Unshakable Joy



Haha, okay. Can I be honest with all of you?

I planned out my blog post schedule for Advent a couple of weeks ago. So when I looked at my planner and saw that I scheduled myself to write about joy today, I couldn't help but feel like God was teasing me a little.

Because, once again, this cycle ended two days ago- without a pregnancy. Again.

Are you sick of me talking about that, yet?

I know that I am. I'm sick of talking about it, writing about it, charting it, thinking it, hoping it, planning it, praying for it... I'm just tired. Of the whole thing.

My infertility journey thus far has had seasons. I can be so positive, so grace-filled and faithful for months at a time... and then I crash and crash hard for a few weeks. For those of you out there who have been doing this for years and years... I pray for you. After a little less than two years, I'm feeling wrung out.

So.

Let's talk about joy, shall we?

(See God's sense of humor, here?)



Here's the thing.

I believe that unshakable joy is real. I believe it. But I just haven't found that place, yet. I haven't found the place where I can rejoice in all things.

Because all things? Really? All things? Orphaned children, sex slavery, abortion, torture, divorce, broken families, pain, death? Infertility- hurt I hold close to my heart right now? How do we rejoice in that? How?

Honestly, I'm not sure, yet. But I do believe that it can be done. I'm clinging to that.

And I sometimes feel that I'm getting closer.

Counting my blessings has made a difference.

Even when my life has been sapped of joy, I have a notebook full of (currently) 322 blessings to prove to me just how full my life really is. How many things I have to be grateful for.

And I think that there's some power in that. When I'm busy giving thanks, I can't feel as sorry for myself. When I'm praising the One who gave me this moment, joy is so much easier to come by.

Of course, my little notebook full of blessings- it's missing a big one.

The ultimate gift, the ultimate blessing, is that Jesus was born. He was born to be Immanuel- God with us.

God. With. Us. 

That's what we're waiting for, isn't it? For God to come and be with us? For Him to fill up every corner of our lives that often echo with the emptiness of what could be, what should be, what we've always wanted.

That was God's design from the beginning, the dwelling with us. In the Garden of Eden, He was there. With us. And even though humanity fell, even though we so often push Him away, even though we think we know best, He's still desiring us. He still wants to be with us. So much so that His Son died for us.

There's joy in that.


The Challenge:

I... I don't have one for this week. Not a formal one, anyway.

I'm going to focus on counting those blessings this week- on listing each little thing, and giving thanks for it. For peppermint coffee creamer and the left-over chalk on the driveway. Those little, daily blessings. Because I'm convinced that giving thanks not only leads me closer to joy, but it also makes every moment sacred. And I could use some more sacred.


Resources: 

This post has some great biblical references about giving thanks and finding the joy in all things.

And if you're feeling particularly worn down in ministry, check out Philippians 1:12-26-- there's a great commentary for it here.



What helps you focus on joy, even in the hard times? 



This post is part of a little series for Advent- you can see the other posts here: Advent 2014

And, like always, Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss a post! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Prodigal Son

Most of us know the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

It's about a younger son, who demands his inheritance from his father (rude) and runs off, completely wasting all of it on partying. He ends up hungry and degraded, doing manual labor, feeding pigs. Finally, he decides to return home and ask his father if he can be a servant. The father runs outside when he sees his son coming and forgives him, giving him a welcome home party. If you wanna read the whole story, you can find it here.

It's a wonderful story of redemption and forgiveness.

I want to be the younger son. He's dumb and makes bad decisions, but realizes his mistakes, and comes home to be forgiven, welcomed back.

I'm definitely not the younger son, though. Yeah, I make mistakes and bad decisions, but...

I'm the older son in this story.

Continue at Blogs for Christian Women, where I'm being featured today! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mid-December PHFR.

Not to be confused with a PHFT, which is the sound you make when someone says something preposterous. 

{PRETTY}

Last weekend, Zeke and I went "home-" back to our teeny tiny hometown where both sets of our folks live. 

My mom threw me a surprise birthday party (not on my birthday, which was part of the surprise), complete with presents and cupcakes and streamers and my little nephew and his "Happy Birthday"-"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" mash up. 

And the next day, my mother-in-law came over, got me in the car, and took me to a salon. 

I'm not really one for salons. I get my hair cut at the Walmart once every six months or so. But she decided it was time for me to get some pampering in, so I got an actual hair cut and then got my nails done. 

I'm a terrible nailbiter and I didn't know about the manicure thing, so I didn't have any nails to get done... so I got acrylics. They're kind of weird, but I actually like them, and they make my hands look so pretty! 



{HAPPY}

Despite all the birthday festivities that were planned unbeknownst to me, the purpose of the trip was to make a ton of Christmas cookies, which we did get around to eventually.


Molasses cookie dough. So, so happy. 

{FUNNY}

Zeke's been wanting to trade in one of our couches and put a recliner in its place for a couple of months now. 

I went to a ladies' group meeting on Monday, and came home to a changed living room. 

And, because he's tall and the recliner wasn't...



Cinderblocks. 




Hunky Husband Life Hack. 

{REAL}

Zeke's been battling a bit of a sore throat lately... 



... this was the little pile he made from dumping his pockets out last night. 



Linking up today with Like Mother, Like Daughter

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Perfect Peace



I've often heard the phrase, "the peace that passes understanding" or "the peace that makes no sense" as part of a benediction or a prayer.

I like that idea.

Of course, in my own life, "the anxiety that makes no sense" is much more a reality.

I'm a worrier. I worry about silly things, about unlikely things. Zeke doesn't answer his phone? He's obviously been in a horrific car accident and is probably dead in a ditch. I might have to move. What kind of information should I bring to the hospital? How will I tell his parents?

My mind goes immediately to ridiculous and extreme outcomes right away, for no reason. I've decided that my need to control every situation is to blame. If I don't expect something horrible to happen, then I won't be prepared if something does. Which, I do realize, makes very little sense.

But it's the way I do it. I've already thought through the possible outcomes, and made my little mental to-do list, so if it happens, I'm all set. I've got it under control.

Or so I think.



Peace isn't the result of having control over everything, of having detailed plans in place.

After all, God changes our plans pretty regularly, doesn't He?




In the first chapter of Luke, we're introduced to two characters who have their plans changed.

Zechariah is an old priest. He and his wife always expected to have children, prayed for them, but God had answered "No." Zechariah and Elizabeth had a painful life, but after many years, they had most likely found some acceptance.  He was probably toward the end of his ministry when the lot fell on him to pray in the temple, in the Holy of Holies. And he prayed, pouring out his heart to God one more time, that they would have a child.

We don't know, but personally, I think that Zechariah's prayer was less, "Please God, won't you give us a child?" and more, "God! Why?!? Why didn't you give us a child!?!" Well, that's the way the prayer would have gone if I was in Zechariah's sandals. I don't think his prayer was to ask for a child- he was old. He didn't think it could happen anymore. He had made other plans.

He had plans of retirement, of living out his quiet life in his quiet town. He was old- the excitement of his life was over.

But God changed those plans. God said "Yes" to the prayers of Zechariah's heart. And Zechariah became our example of what not to do.

"How can I be sure of this?" Zechariah asks the angel. Can you prove it? Because if I'm going to change my plans... I mean, we're really old, you know? I won't believe it til I see it. And he leaves the temple that day with not only a changed life plan and baby on the way, but also without a voice because of his unbelief.


And then we meet our second character- Mary.

Mary is a young lady who is betrothed- she's probably making wedding plans and working on preparing for her new life as a wife. She's got plans- a big wedding, marrying her Joseph, having lots of babies and living out a nice life in her little town of Nazareth.

And then, like Zechariah, she's visited by an angel. Suddenly, her plans are thrown out the window. She's now going to have a child, Joseph will probably divorce her, her family will be disappointed and hurt, she's even at risk of being stoned to death for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Nothing will be the way she had hoped, the way she planned.

She responds with a question- "How will this be?" (reminding us that it's okay to ask questions from a place of belief- she knows it will be, but she doesn't understand the mechanics of it all)- and then says...

“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” 

Now that's peace.

I don't want the peace that comes from rigid planning and holding on to control. I don't want peace that's dependent on my own emotions, my own actions, or my own expectations.

I want a Mary kind of peace.

Because, you know what? Even though we won't have our plans change the same way Mary's did, God changes our human plans. A lot. And we have to trust that God knows what He's doing, and that He will work all things for our good.




Advent is often a time of lots of planning, lots of expectations, and lots and lots of pressure for everything to be "just right." Not only that, but a lot of us have things we're praying for so desperately (like me and having a baby.)

Not only does the first chapter of Luke tell us the story of Jesus's birth, but it also has two very important lessons for us to learn.

1. God answers prayers in miraculous ways. The vulnerable heart that Zechariah presented to the Lord in prayer was answered. Not in the timing that Zechariah might have chosen himself, but God knew what He was doing, even when we can't see it. He has worked miracles before, and He will do it again.
2. God's plans are the best plans. Even when we can't see the reason, we have to trust His planning, His path for our lives. We know that He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place. Would He withhold any good thing from us? 


The Challenge:


The challenge for this week is more a challenge of changing a habit. It's such a habit for me to get all worked up and anxious this time of year- there's just so much going on!

I challenge you- whenever you're feeling the need to control, or whenever you start to worry about what's next- whenever your plans are changing- don't stress or get anxious or get out a pen and start making plan B. When you're feeling disappointed and let down because you're waiting for something that may never be, or you start to feel the threads of jealousy tugging your heart away from Him...

Stop. Pray.



That's the challenge. Instead of seeking to control, seek the God of miracles.

(A Note: This prayer was in part inspired by the St. Andrew novena, which is a prayer in the Catholic tradition. It is changed quite a bit... but I think that understanding the idea of a "novena" can be a great resource for even my non-Catholic friends. The St. Andrew novena is meant to be prayed 15 times per day every day of Advent, and has resulted in many miracles. 

Personally, I don't believe that the prayer itself is responsible for the miracles, but being in intentional, heartfelt prayer 15 times a day shows a real dedication and sincerity, and helps to center our souls on regular conversation with God. )

Other Resources:

We see examples of God disrupting human plans throughout the Bible. Some of these stories are more cautionary tales, telling us what not to do when God sends us a different direction, and some are great examples of steadfast faith. 

Reading through these has really made a difference to me- just look at what amazing things God has done through the lives of people who are willing (or a little less willing) to follow His plan: 

Noah: Genesis 6
Abraham: Genesis 17
Moses: Exodus 2 (and not only his story- think of the plans of his momma!)
Esther: Esther 1
David: 1 Samuel 16


What stories help remind you that His plan is the best plan?

How do you find peace, even in such an uncertain world?


This post is part of a little Advent series- you can see my post on Advent Hope here: 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Expectation and Hope



I've noticed that since beginning this infertility journey, Advent takes on a different feeling. Advent makes me almost... melancholy.

Which I realize seems very silly.

After all, this is the season of light! Of hope and peace and joy and love. Of Emmanuel come to earth, God with us. God with us.

But that doesn't change the fact that Advent is also, in the most human terms, the time when the world waits for a birth.

The whole season is centered around a baby, around maternity. A very special baby, and a miraculous maternity, but even so...

It's hard.

And then of course, this season is full of seeing lots of relatives, watching families grow (and, if you're in my family, at least one soon-to-be mama every year), of people asking when it will be your turn, the far-away relatives with another little smile added to the photo card...

This is a difficult season.

In fact, last December, I didn't put out a single post on this little blog. Not one. I would think that it was in part because things were busy, but I also know that I was dealing with an Advent of infertility for the first time, and those waters were hard to navigate.

This year, I decided that I want to be more intentional about not just surviving Advent, but celebrating it. Cherishing it. Growing through it.



The first week of Advent is often considered the week of Hope. 

Me and hope, we've had our hard times.

See, hope can hurt, can disappoint, and can devastate.

But often, that's when I know that my hope isn't in the right place. God never wants us to trust solely on the things of this earth. It can (and will) all be taken from us. That's the painful truth. I mean, just look at Elizabeth in the book of Luke. She was barren and her prayers were answered. She got the miracle. And thirty years later, her pride and joy and only son, her miraculous son, was beheaded by Herod. Not a happy ending. Life is painful, but we know that God's plan is worked out even in our pain.

Our hope shouldn't be a worldly hope, but should instead be the hope that comes from the knowledge that our God is good, and that He has died to save us.

I don't know that I'll ever have a child. I don't know. There are many who never have children, people more deserving and stable and wonderful and faithful than I am. It may never happen.

But whether or not I have a baby, the goodness of God won't change.

I can wait expectantly, because I know that He loves me and will work great things in my life, and will work great things through me. I know that what seems to be a closed door could very well be an amazing and unexpected opportunity. My expectations are often way off.


I'm going to go ahead and issue a challenge.

Because I'm just so challenging.

I can go on and on about hope (because it's been one theme that's resurfaced quite a few times this year). But I want to challenge you to go and spend some time in the truth this week- finding hope through God's word.


The Challenge:

This week, read the book of Romans. Yep, the whole thing. It's a long book, I know, but there's so much about hope in there.

And then to make it sink in even further...

I've found the SOAP method to be really influential for me in my Bible study. Of course, you can choose how intensive you want to make this study, but be intentional about it.

S-Scripture. If you have the time, you could write out all 16 chapters, or you could choose two or three verses that stick out to you to write down. Writing out the verses helps me to remember them even better.

O- Observations. Note anything that sticks out to you, anything you have questions about, anything that you notice.

A- Application. What can you apply from this section? How can you grow from what the Bible is saying here? What needs to change in your actions or attitude?

P- Prayer. Pray over what you've learned, over the challenges you found, and pray about how to apply the chapter or verse to your life.

Other Resources:

If you're struggling to conceive, I'd recommend reading what Sara says in this interview about hope (and while you're at it, check out her blog. She's got a firm foundation of faith in the midst of the storm. And you know what? Just consider it an early Christmas present to yourself and buy her book- Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet).

You can also check out some messages about hope here.

Edited To Include: Ann Voskamp posted this powerful message about hope, too... (my favorite quote? "Tears are never a sign of weakness. Tears are always the sign of an open heart."


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell the Story

I think that most of us are familiar with Psalm 107- at least the beginning lines.


... but take a second to read the next verse-

That's what we're doing, isn't it?

Often, when people ask what I do for a hobby, or ask about things I really enjoy, I sort of mumble under my breath... "Well, and I have a little blog... it's nothing really."

Blogging is kind of a weird thing, isn't it? Sharing our lives with the world, spending time peering into the journals of other people and making friends you only see through screens? And for what, really? I know that I've spent tons of time finding just the right image, editing that post, planning that series, and the posts I'm proudest of often are read by all of twenty people and I think, was that really worth it? 

Yes.

I think it is worth it.

This little piece of the internet- this little space where I share my thoughts and my struggles- it's a testament to the goodness of God in my life.

This is giving thanks, in a small way.

This is telling my redemption story, the story of how I'm messy and broken and fight hard against God but He holds me anyway, loves me anyway.

I'm telling the story.




Over Thanksgiving (well, and any holiday, really), I often find myself being tolerant. You know? Families are wonderful, but there are jagged edges. Tension. Disagreements barely under the surface. I tolerate these other messy, broken people, because family and holidays.

And when I'm just tolerating, I really don't feel anything akin to transparency. To vulnerability. I don't share my story because my story is messy and personal and... mine.

But isn't that part of giving thanks?

To say, "Here. This is how God has done a great thing in me,"- to show the broken parts and the "ongoing projects" and how God is love and human perfection isn't real but He loves us anyway- isn't that thanksgiving? The looking back?

Yeah, life is so messy and broken and has lots of jagged edges. I'm far from "there" yet. Still growing, still learning, clinging on to the little tiny bit of trust I've somehow found in my sinful heart. But God's done a great thing in me, and He'll keep doing great things in me, and He's given me this day to come closer to Him and try again.

And that is something to be thankful for!