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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spiritual Disciplines: Prioritizing Prayer

The third spiritual discipline that I'd like to recommend that you work on is prayer. Spend time in prayer, prioritize prayer, make prayer a habit.

The Bible talks about prayer often- about praying without ceasing, about taking our anxieties to God in prayer.

For me, it's easy to say that prayer is a big part of my daily life, but besides offering up a quick, "Thanks God," or a "I can't find my keys, God. Help!" I sometimes really struggle with having a daily prayer life.

The trouble is, a solid prayer life is a balance. 

Having a structured time for prayer, building it into a schedule, making prayer a priority- that's important.

Think of planned prayer time like a planned call to a friend. I do this with my friend Meri. We talk weekly, usually on Thursdays (although that's changing to Mondays... but you get the idea, so moving on). I know that I will take some time out to connect with her- to catch up, to tell her what's going on and how I'm doing and where I'm struggling. We take the time and go into deep stuff.

On the other hand, if we only pray during planned, structured times, we limit our openness to Him. We put Him in a box, or in a prayer corner, or on that one couch at 6:40 am every morning. He's with us, all the time. He's there to talk, all the time.

When I stub my toe and say, "Lord. That hurt! Take that pain away, please," or when my friend announces a pregnancy and I feel that pain in my heart... I can call out to Him. Ask Him for help, for perspective.

It's a balance.

Personally, I tend to be better at the "in every moment" prayer, rather than the "planned and purposeful" prayer.

That's why having a guide is so helpful to me.

I really like the book The Power of a Praying Woman (I got hooked after reading The Power of a Praying Wife)

I've also been blessed by praying the Bible:

The Power of Praying Through the Bible -- I know, another "Power Of..." but I really like 'em!

The One Year Book of Praying through the Bible- this one goes through one year, using Scripture and prayer together to make a great quiet time resource.

How do you stay focused in your prayer life? Do you use guides at all? 

More posts on Spiritual Disciplines: 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Personal Daily Planning Pages: October (free Printable!)

We've talked about my planning binder before...

and most recently,

and here's the thing. I learned that sometimes you've got to redesign and rethink the pages you're using. Figure out what works and what doesn't. And that's really the benefit of custom pages, right? You can change them. Unlike in the rest of my life, when it comes to my planner, I thrive on change. I need to mix things up every once in a while. Sometimes I need more structure, sometimes I need less.

I liked using "blank date" pages because 1) I could just print out a whole bunch and fill in the dates later, and 2) if I skipped a day (or week, or month), it didn't matter much.

And for a season, that worked for me.

But this season, I realized that if I was actually planning on using the pages every day (and I was), it made more sense and saved some time if I just dated them. And, well, I wanted something completely different. I get bored! And if I'm bored with my pages, I don't use them.*

Here's what I'm using now, and here are some examples of how I'm using them:

Blank pages. I tried using a one-page spread for my daily planning pages, but it just wasn't quite enough room. Close, but not quite. So I went with a two-page spread, and while I know that I won't fill in every little line, it gives me lots of room to be flexible.

And here's "today." (Okay, so it was "today" at the time I took the picture.)

I usually end up listing my "to do's" at the top of the left-hand page:

Here, I used two columns- one for my household tasks (which I usually do in the afternoon, so I hadn't gotten a chance to get them done, yet), and my "online" tasks.

I've also divided up tasks by morning, afternoon, evening; or I've put the high priority in one column and the lower priority in a different column... it's nice to decide how to organize my tasks based on what's going on that day.

And here's a different day. I don't usually use the whole page for my tasks list, so I can use the rest of the page for notes or reminders, or for prayer requests I'd like to remember. There's no set"spot" for anything, so I can shift everything around based on what my day looks like.

The right-hand side of my day usually looks a little like this. I debated if I should include a full schedule section, but I don't need a daily schedule often enough to really justify using the space. If I do have appointments to remember, I'll write the time and details on this page.

I also like that these pages give me flexibility to include some journaling if I'd like, and again, I don't use the whole page most of the time.

One of my new favorite uses for my daily pages is my blessings list. My small group started reading "One Thousand Gifts," and I was really challenged to make daily gratitude a habit. And where better than right in front of my face! On this particular day, I didn't need to have my meal plans because we were eating at Camp (I know, we're blessed), so I just started my list at the top of the page.

So there you have it! My current daily pages.

And, because I'm creating them for myself anyway, I figured that I would share the fun:

Pre-dated October 2014 Printables. For you! 

If you'd like to download my pages for October, go ahead and click here.

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.

And if you don't want my pages, that's just fine! Remember, it's all about what works for you. If this format doesn't work for you, go find one that does!

Happy Planning!

*I've found that there are two kinds of "bored" when it comes to planning pages: sometimes the boredom is easily solved by changing a font or mixing up a color, and sometimes "bored" actually means "doesn't work for me anymore."

If you're feeling bored with your pages, I'd recommend that before changing everything (or printing every single pretty printable you find online... been there), you figure out what the problem is. Too much structure? Not enough structure? Sections that don't fit your lifestyle right now? Not enough space? Too much space?

I know it's tempting to just overhaul the whole thing, but if you put a little extra thought into it, you'll be more successful at finding a planner that you actually use- one that works for you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Spiritual Discipline: Memorize Scripture

"Adrie," you're saying to your screen, "we already talked about the Bible last week. Go drink some more coffee and GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!"

To that I say, I can't hear you through the screen and yes, I think I will go have some more coffee.

We talked last week a bit about the discipline of studying and spending time in God's Word, because growing in faith is an important part of spiritual maturity that you can work on right now- married or single.

But we can't just stop at studying. While studying and applying Scripture to our lives is important, we need to follow Jesus' example and go one step further.

"My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."- Proverbs 7:1-3

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."- Psalm 119:9-11

I believe that reading the Bible does help us to store up God's word in our hearts to some extent, but memorizing Scripture takes this to a whole new level.

But memorizing Scripture takes work. 

There are a ton of resources online to help with this (see here for some resources), but I've found that the "old school way" works best for me.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Write the verse down again and again and again.

Make flashcards.

Say your memory verse every time you eat.

Put your verse on post-it's and stick them around your house. Say it out loud whenever you see the post-it.

Review older memory verses on a weekly basis.

Put your verse to a tune.

Assign verses to beads of a bracelet - I do this and I really like it. I have one verse for all the metal beads, one verse for all the sparkle beads, one for the glass beads... and then when I get a spare moment (waiting for a website to load, in line at the grocery store), I start going through my bracelet.

Why It Matters
It takes work, patience, and practice, to be sure- but memorizing Scripture is a very valuable tool. Haven't you ever wished you could remember that great verse to speak life into a friend? I know I have.

Memorizing Scripture is also one way to help drown out the lies in our lives.

You know, the "You're not enough" lie? Try fighting that one with Philippians 4:13. Or when you're disappointed with the way you look? 1 Peter 3:4.

Find the places that you're having struggles, find a verse or passage that speaks God's truth into that sore spot, and memorize it.

A quick note- I think it's very important to recognize the context of the verse you're learning. It's so easy to take Scripture completely out of context, or to miss an important piece of truth, and that's one reason that whole Scripture memorization can be so powerful. (Also see another post about that here.) Personally, I'm not there yet- I'm working my way up from just a few verses at a time. Typically, the verses I memorize are verses that I'm studying as well- so I'm sure to know the context. And I think it's okay to start small- I tend to overwhelm myself with super-great ideas and then I just can't make it a habit because it's too much. You know?

Just do it. Start where you feel comfortable, and if it's too much, back off a little. It's about growing, and even growing takes practice.

Take some time to inscribe God's word on your heart.

 It really makes a difference.

How do you memorize Scripture? Do you have a favorite technique or trick?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Told You that to Tell You This: Apple Chips, Farm Cats, and a Link Up


This has been a weird week in chez Little. I worked all last weekend, so had Monday off (and did nothing. Seriously. Nothing.), and then worked late on Tuesday night, came in early on Wednesday with a "last minute run to Menards"-that-ended-up-taking-all-of-three-hours-chaser. I just feel very... off kilter. My routines! I need my routines!

That said, I need you all to pray for us, please. Something has (just now, like, this very morning) come up, something that would really throw off my routines, but my heart strings are being tugged. Strongly. I'm just not sure that Zeke's are being tugged the same way, and I can be really really impulsive and I jump right in where he looks before he leaps. And you know, just this morning, so he probably hasn't had time to even think about any of this, but it's big on my mind.

I do realize that I'm being very vague- but maybe just pray that we'll very clearly see God's will and doors will open wide if this is the right thing. And if it is the right thing, trust me, you'll hear all about it.

A lighter, {happy} note: We have tons of apples. Zeke's folks have an apple tree that was majorly overloaded this year... so we came home with tons of 'em. Just trying to be helpful, you know. 

So Zeke decided to dehydrate them and make apple chips. So yummy! 

While at the farm- I thought this was so {funny}

Two cats who just loved walking like this. Too cute.

While I know I'm really blessed to have meals provided for us during the summer (and the no-clean up, no grocery shopping that goes along with that), there's just something wonderful about reclaiming my kitchen each Fall.

Chicken stock in progress.

So, I no longer have ballet flats due to an unfortunate "while at a retreat, someone took them" situation.

Wait, I didn't tell you about that yet?

Okay, so two weeks ago I went to a retreat. There were a lot of ladies there, and it was rainy. (The rainy part is important, here.) The first night, there was a very nice lady who won a door prize, and she mentioned that her luggage had been lost in the airport. Bummer deal, for sure.

Anyway, my group went for a hike, and my trusty ole ballet flats went too, and got really muddy. So, instead of cleanin' 'em up before dinner (we were late already), I put them in the shared bathroom and put on my other pair of shoes, figuring I'd avoid tracking mud everywhere and I'd clean them later. But when I went back later, they were gone. I looked around, checked the lost and found... nothing.

Until the last day of the retreat, when I saw the door prize lady who lost her luggage. She was wearing my shoes. Huh? But I then I thought, "Well, she might have the same pair!" and then also "She's way taller than me, she probably has bigger feet. So she couldn't be wearing my shoes."

But then I noticed her heels hangin' off the back of them. Those shoes were way too small for her. And I was pretty darn sure they were mine. But how do you go up to someone you don't know and say, "Hey, are you wearing my shoes?"

Weird, the whole situation.

I told you that to tell you this-

I'm kind of lost without my ballet flats. I gotta get myself a new pair, but until then, I've been trying to work my customary skirts-with-ballet-flats outfits minus the ballet flats. Flip flops have worked great, but now it's getting colder...

So I need help. Because, as I've said, I'm really not much for fashion.  

Here's my outfit for today...

Ignore the messy office in the background. And the garbage can. And the fact that my cardigan is a button off.  There are reasons I don't do this.

... and that's my only idea. (Although I must say, the dress is a {pretty] one. Thank you mother-in-law!) So, I obviously need some help. I asked for help on Facebook, too... but I figured I'd ask again... because desperate.

Link up here with your favorite cowboy boot/skirt outfits. Or just any cowboy boot/skirt outfit. Any outfit at all.

You know what? Let's get wild- link up ANY Fall outfit! 

And, because, you know, the Fall is the perfect time to wear... Fall outfits, this link up will be open for a while. I got no rules. Go crazy.

Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Spiritual Discipline: Study the Word

I am blessed to have Bible reading folks in my life.

I am not one of them. (And apparently, I'm not alone.)

The importance of spending time in Scripture isn't lost on me- I know that His Word has immense power, that rooting myself in it helps me to overcome some of the influence of the world. But actually sitting down, opening my Bible, and reading the truth of it's pages? It isn't a natural priority for me.

While I struggle with this particular discipline, I know that my attitudes, my priorities, and my lifestyle changes when I do make spending time in Scripture a priority.

But I need help to do it.

Maybe you're finding yourself in the same spot. So here are some things that have helped me:

This article over at Like Mother Like Daughter is great inspiration and has an interesting perspective on the why behind reading the Bible. 

Get a Bible that Works for You: 
We are incredibly (INCREDIBLY) blessed to have access and financial resources to even have Scripture available to us. How many Bibles are in your home? (I have two, Zeke has one, and we have a children's Bible, too). How many do you actually use? (Zeke uses his a ton, I use only one of mine.)

The truth is, we're most likely to use a Bible that works with the way we think. I like to take lots and lots of notes, so this Bible is a great fit for me. Zeke doesn't take any notes at all, but he really likes the commentary provided in most study Bibles.

Find one that works for you. And then donate any other Bibles you own to a church, a camp, a friend, send it overseas... give the Word of God to someone who may not otherwise have access to it.

Have a Plan:
I'll be honest- there are times when I've just opened up the Bible to any old page and started reading. But for the most part, that doesn't work well. I've found that if I have a plan to follow, I'm typically more successful in following through with reading Scripture. There are tons of great plans out there. I really like Good Morning Girls.

This online Bible study has been an awesome resource for me. My small group used it for a study in Ephesians. We followed the "SOAP" plan that was developed by Good Morning Girls.

You write down a part of scripture (maybe a verse or a few verses) of the day's reading that stood out to you. I think this was the part that really made the difference for me. I tend to remember things much better when I physically write them down. Then, you note observations about the text, and applications you glean from the text to live out. Finally, you take a moment to pray about what you've read.

It's recommended that you do this with a group of gals- it helps to keep you accountable- but I went through one of the studies by myself and thought it was great, too.

Read the Bible in a Year:
Giving yourself a goal like this one can be a great motivator. There are lots of plans out there (Bible Gateway has some good ones). I like the book-by-book way of reading the Bible - it flows better in my mind rather than jumping round from Old to New Testament and from book to book.

Even while you're doing a plan like this one, it's vital to remember that you're not just reading- you're studying. Write stuff down, think about it, chew on it a little. Ask questions.

Which leads me to my next point...

Check out Commentaries
One of the best things I did in college was take a Bible class in which we were encouraged to check out commentaries and do some comparison. The Bible is an incredibly rich piece of literature (because, well, it was written by God, after all). People study it for lifetimes; it's okay to see what someone else has to say about what they see in God's Word... especially when you get to a part that makes you say, "Wha?"

(And I wrote a 15 page paper on Leviticus in that Bible class, so I did a lot of going "Wha?")

There are some cool online resources for commentaries- including YouVersion (people can add comments to a book or passage- some are really great), as well as the commentaries through Bible Study Tools. I'd also recommend checking out a library to see what they've got for commentaries.

I think it's important to get more than one point of view. Sometimes the most inspiring perspectives come from a voice that's very different from our own. I really love the Africa Bible Commentary. It was written by 70 scholars from Africa, and the worldview of these brilliant folks is often very different from the way I see things.

Those are the things that have really helped me with this particular discipline. Do you have anything to add? What helps you to stay on track with studying the Word?

This post contains affiliate links as well as web links to products that I use and have found helpful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


This is yesterday, actually.

READING: Registration forms. Ha! Just kidding. But really. And also One Thousand Gifts, still. I re-read each and every chapter because there's just so much there. Oh, and also a really (really) bad YA book... but I'm reading it anyway because I need some entertainment.

LISTENING: to acorns dive-bombing the sidewalk.

SMELLING: the pumpkin candle on the desk next to me. It's nice.

WATCHING: Our Netflix works again (Praise WiFi), but only a little. And only before 10:15, and only if no one is using a microwave. Or thinking about microwaves. So, between long sessions of red spinny "loading" thing, we've been watching Longmire. In choppy little segments until 10:15. 

WORKING ON: Getting back into the swing of meal planning. I know- we haven't had campers around for like, a month. I've just been forcing Zeke to microwave freezer-burnt leftover hot dogs for the past month. (As long as the microwave is NOT on while I'm trying to get Netflix to work)... Ketchup is a vegetable, right?

WISHING: That I could go home now, instead of waiting for the guests to come in. But I'm happy they're coming. I just wanna go home. You know?

WEARING: Almost this exact same outfit. Minus the scarf, plus a Camp zip up. And a slightly different Camp shirt. Because that's how I roll.

WANTING: So, I've gotten back into using my little planner, right? Which is awesome. And helpful. But the trouble is, now I want a new binder. I like the one I've got, but I'd like something leather-ish. Like a Filofax or even a Daytimer or... I don't care. And I love the ones in mint green or that vintage rose color. But those are so expensive! Even the used ones are like, $70.00. Ugh. I should stop looking 'em up.

NEEDING: A little more coffee. Just a little.

FEELING: Kinda sleepy! This cold and dreary weather is to blame, I'm sure!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Seven Reasons I'm Not a Fashion Blogger. (And Why I'm Glad You Are).

I'm not a fashion blogger, obviously. Not even close. There are lots of ladies out there who write a little about fashion, but wouldn't call themselves "fashion bloggers..." I'm not one of those, either. I don't blog about fashion at all, really. And there are good reasons for it. Very, very good reasons.


How do people have those nicely blank or artsy backgrounds? Seriously. I attempted to find a single blank or artsy-cute wall anywhere in the vicinity and came up empty handed.

Ignore the light switch. And the remote holder thing.


It seriously took me five minutes just to angle the camera so I was actually in the frame, and I ended up using a tri-pod thing, two books, and an orange. And don't get me started with the original photographer I had in mind. Zeke was no help with this at all.

Taken while the camera was falling off the coffee table.

Those of you who have five-year-olds photograph you- HOW DO YOU DO IT?


My house utilizes the fluorescent lights of photography death. Took a buncha editing to remove the cringe-worthy effect I had going on.


The majority of my clothing is "Camp-wear"- theme t-shirts from old programs, t-shirts from camps where I no longer work, t-shirts with the Camp logo... it's like an unofficial work uniform. Of t-shirts. Including one with a Lego guy on it, another with a giant spatula, and one that says "CAMP IS GOOD."


I don't actually buy clothing often at all (partially because of #4).


And when I do buy clothing, it typically sticks around for a while.


And finally, I'm not a fashion blogger because... I'd much rather leave it up to all of you who do it, and can actually do it, and come up with adorable outfits that I would never have come up with on my own. Because I need the inspiration.

And also because so many of you -

I'm looking atcha, Grace and Haley and Anna and Kendra and Rosie, and this list could get very long...-

you remind me that looking nice, looking put together, is important. Even if the only people who see you today are your children. Or your husband. Or the lady with whom you share an office. It matters. And you remind me of that. (Hence the scarf in my outfit today. Ta da! So fancy.)

So, thanks.

And keep roping your seven-year-old into photographing you. =)

This post is linked to Fashion on the 15th- Hi, Anna!-and with Jen for Seven Quick Takes.

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.

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