Saturday, September 6, 2014

Anxiety, Stress and Fears

Those of us in Eastern Iowa have been absolutely blessed with beautiful sunny, fall-like weather today. It gets me in the mood for football, chili, bonfires and my comfy warm sweaters. I have been thinking quite a bit this week on how I am doing on facing my anxiety and fears and handling my stress. Not being perfect, some days were definitely better than others.

As I sit watching Iowa State play (I bleed black and gold for the Hawkeyes, but they don't play until 2!), I realize that I need to tackle my anxiety head-on. God is the greatest coach anyone could ever have. He has surrounded me with wonderful teammates that help me work through my anxieties and fears. And then I have been given the gift of co-workers and friends who are right there cheering me on and picking me up with their prayers and encouraging words when I stumble. The playbook is God's Word and I am using it more to guide me as I live out each day.

Chili is one of my all-time favorite fall/winter meals and I use the leftovers to create other meals that I enjoy. I don't like mine spicy hot, but I do like it warm. The more time I spend in devotion and Bible study, the warmth inside of me gets hotter until I am on fire for God, thirsting for more.

 I get that same feeling with K-LOVE. The more I listen, the more on fire I am for God! I love to sing at our Praise worship service and that stokes the fire and the fire gets hotter and draws me closer to my Abba. When I feel uneasy, I pop in a Christian music CD, turn on the radio or start humming some of my favorite hymns. Just as the warmth of the bonfire draws me closer, so too, my love for music warms me, drawing me closer.

I can't wait for "The Best Yes" to start! Reading Lysa's books is like a warm comfy sweater. I love how I can relate to her and the message she is sharing. I seriously feel like we have some of the same struggles and it makes me feel warm because I know that others have the same struggles too. I am snug and warm in the Word .

On that note, it is a great day to curl up and take a warm, little nap while waiting for the Hawkeyes to play.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fear = Faith

What? Fear = faith? How is this possible? Let me explain...

Faith. Without faith, conquering our fears will be impossible.

 "Jesus said to him, 'If you believe, all things are possible to him who believes.'" Mark 9:23

Encourage. By participating in this Gap Study, sisters, we are able to support and encourage one another as we kick our fears to the curb. I have seen this going on as we comment in response to what is posted by our Gap Team and others. Keep it up! :)

"Therefore encourage on another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 
1 Thessalonians 5:11  

Accept. Be open to what God is saying to you as work through this study. Accept it - embrace it. Use the wisdom and insight you are gaining to force fear back when it starts creeping in.

"Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future." 
Proverbs 19:20 (ESV)

Refuge. When you find fear and anxiety weighing you down, seek God and take refuge in HIM. Rest. Refuel. Renew. Scripture and prayer provides all of this to us - use it! Psalm 46 is one of my favorites.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It Wasn't "Just a Barn..."

This is what is left from my beloved barn that I played in while growing up. The barn was located on my mom's family farm 5 miles north from where I live now. Today, a bolt of lightning turned it into a pile of smoldering rubble. It wasn't just a barn.

This barn, over 100 years ago, housed cattle, hay and grain. It held straw and the combine, cats and mice when I was growing up. I played house in it, taught the cats school in it, got ticks in my hair in it. It was a great hiding place from my mom, until Duke-dog (the Saint Bernard) would give my mom the look so she knew where I was at. More recently it held machinery for my uncle who is farming the land and my dad.

Not so many years ago my dad and uncle spent hours tediously removing each stone in the wall and foundation and resetting them. Restoring the barn for future generations to enjoy and love just like I did. There was talk that it was time to get the "cat barn" repainted. It wasn't just a barn.

I can remember the cattle that used to come to drink on the south side of the barn and the salt blocks the barn stored. I can remember what I called the "closet" where we kept the cat food, shovels, buckets and brooms. I just remember.....

It was insured, there is talk of rebuilding, but it won't be the same. A piece of my childhood that I loved dearly is gone. I am so thankful for the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department and the neighboring departments from Welton, Charlotte, Goose Lake  and Low Moor for their help in keeping the fire from spreading to another building just to the north. The ambulance from Genesis and the Clinton County Sheriff's Department also responded. I am thankful that no one was injured while saving the machinery or fighting the fire.

For those of you who say, "Oh, it was just barn.", no it wasn't. Not to me. It was my beloved cat barn that can never be replaced. It was like my second home while growing up. Tomorrow I will go and look at the rubble again and look for something, anything that I can keep at my home from my barn.

So as tears glide freely down my face, I wasn't just a barn.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Imperfect Mom

I am a professional full-time church worker. I live my life in a glass fish bowl (or at least I feel/think I do)! When we go to church I cringe when my children don't behave because of how I think others will think of my my mothering skills, or lack thereof.

I have no problem running an organized, fun learning environment at my congregation's preschool. Spend a day with me at home and it's a whole different story! Why is it I feel so out of control at home? Why do I expect my children' to behave just like that "one family" at church that seems to have it all together? Is it because I work outside the home? Or is it because I should home school my children? (That would require me to work at home!)

Reading through the first section of Am I Messing Up My Kids?on Sunday morning after church, I had an A-HA! moment! Lysa (the wonderful author of the book) struggles just like I do to keep my mouth and stress level under control! I am not a failure! I am just like every other mother in the world!

Instead of turning to my friends, Google, Facebook, self-help books to help me become a better mother, all I need to do is turn to God! Well, duh! That seems so logical when I read it, but I couldn't come up with that myself! I must start my day with God and then return to God throughout the day when I feel things going out of control and a sarcastic thought forming in my mind - bring out the muzzle please! 

"I have discovered that if I can change the way I think about something, I can change the way I react to it. If I change the way I react, I can change the way I define myself as a mother." (pg. 11, Am I Messing Up My Kids?) I don't expect this to happen overnight! It's a good thing I worship a loving God who is patient, gracious and full of forgiveness because I know I'm still going to make mistakes and it's going to take a lot of time to get used to this new way of mothering. 

I don't know if this will help my daughter's pre-teen attitude or the explosive way my son responds when things don't go his way, but if I can learn to keep calm, turn to God and remember key Scriptures, it will help me and improve the way I react to them and situations that happen.

I'm sure we all have days or weeks where we feel we could earn the Worst Mother of the Year Award, but by keeping God first, keeping my tongue quiet and doing the best I can maybe my kids will turn out alright after all! With that being said, I'm off to tackle the adventure of putting my kids to bed without World War III breaking out.

Dear Abba Father, give me patience beyond all measure and temper my words with gentleness and kindness. Amen.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. ~ Proverbs 25:11

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
 ~ Psalm 73:26

Friday, June 6, 2014

Orphaned to Adopted - In More Ways Than One

Those who know me know that I am not an orphan, but adopted. I was adopted by my parents when I was five days old. I have known no other parents than the ones I have been blessed with. People often ask if I want to find my birth mother/parents. My answer is always the same: I would like to have my health history, but I don't want to meet my real parents. I feel they loved me enough to give me to parents who could and have loved me, cared for me and probably, even spoiled me. (I'm an only child.) God has blessed my husband and I with two beautiful children who are loved beyond all measure, but if we weren't able to have children we would have adopted.

I am currently participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study Limitless Life by Derwin Gray. The Bible verse we are marinating on this week comes from Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) - "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." I wrote this on the chalkboard in the entryway where my family goes in and out of at least 65,000 times a day (OK, that is an exaggeration. It just feels like that many!). My kids noticed it right away because the board no longer said "Happy Easter!" and reminded me we still have some Easter things out. I like this verse a lot and will probably verse map it over the weekend, but there was another verse that Pastor Gray used in Chapter Four that spoke volumes to me.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  Ephesians 1:5-6 
Wow! God knew in advance, before I was born or even a twinkling in my birth mother's eyes, that he wanted me! He adopted me into his family through Jesus! Without learning about Jesus from my adopted family (I consider them my REAL family.), going to church, going into ministry as a career path, I would be an orphan! Praise be to God that I am adopted twice over!!

Not only that, God wanted me to be a part of his family and it gave him great pleasure! I am sure there are times that the choices I make in my words and actions disappoint my Abba, but I know that I am forgiven! He takes the messes I make and turns them into masterpieces.

The best part is knowing I am loved by my family and by my heavenly Father. There is nothing better than the unconditional love I receive from them.

 See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we reallyare! But since most people don’t know God, naturally they don’t understand that we are his children. 1 John 3:1 (TLB)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Community - A Shelter from Life's Storms

What does community mean to me? The first thing that comes to mind is the town that I grew up in and where I am raising my family, DeWitt, IA.  Love this place. It is bigger than when I was growing up, but it is still a small farm town with a nice shopping area downtown, plenty of places to eat (but a diner or small cafe would be nice!), great schools, a hospital and only 20 minutes in three directions to the nearest Wal-Mart and shopping. One definition of community is "a group of people who live in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common."

But the community that I have at OBS fits the following definition "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals." I can be quiet and shy when in a new situation, but getting involved with a Facebook small group really helped me feel comfortable quickly. I have an awesome leader, Marlene, and the rest of my sisters in Group 51 are so accepting and loving that I no longer feel like the only child that I am! Where else can I find fellow sisters who love the Lord - actually OOZE their love for the Lord? I can share my thoughts and feelings without feeling judged or rejected. We may not live in the same town, state, or even country but when we are gathered in one place for the building of our faith through Scripture, study and prayer we are truly blessed!

What I need from a community is probably different from what you need and that is OK! I need a place where I am loved for who I am and what I am. I have a need to feel accepted by others and loved. Maybe you do too. I love that I learn from the leaders of the OBS studies and the other ladies who are participating. I need to know that what I am going through, experiencing or doubting is OK and may even be normal. I just need a safe place to be me!

My hope and prayer is that I can encourage and support my fellow OBS sisters. I want you to know that I pray for all of you. I will love you for who you are. I am only a Facebook message away if you need someone to pray for/with you. I will be your number one cheerleader when you get discouraged!

 "This will happen when we set aside our self-interests and work together to create true community instead of a culture consumed by provocation, pride, and envy." ~ Galatians 5:26 (The Voice)

"Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others." ~ James 3:13 (The Voice)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Living So That, Part 2

Chapter Two of "Living So That" focuses on God's Word. This, of course, refers to The Holy Bible or Scripture. God's Word can be used for so many things from teaching to showing us our sins. The Bible is 100% true. It is holy and sacred and demands the utmost respect. I hold it in reverence and awe.  The more I read it, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I treasure it! Every word inside of the Bible was inspired by God! God spoke through the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the men who wrote the very words we read! It is authentic and accurate because God is without sin - He is perfect!

The Bible equips us to face our challenges, struggles, joys and successes in whatever we do in life. Ministry isn't reserved for the pastors in our pulpits on Sunday morning or the Evangelism team at our churches. We are called and equipped to do ministry right where we are! God placed us where we are for a specific purpose. Answer the call today - what is God speaking to you through His Word? What is He calling you to do right where you are?

God's Word helps us establish our faith - we must commit to making time to read God's Word daily. There are several ways to do this. There are on-line sites with daily devotions that can be emailed to you, Proverbs 31 Ministries is one example. Other sites offer Bible reading plans to read through the entire Bible or just a book or on a certain topic. Visit a Christian bookstore in your area and you will find a plethora of choices! Check with your own church too. Many denominations publish daily devotions that are then sent or purchased by your local congregation for their members.

I wish I could say that I was in God's Word daily, but I'm not. I strive to be and I'm getting better. I am finding that the more time I spend with Him in prayer and devotion or through a Bible study, the better I am at hearing God speak to me. I will delve into prayer in another post. God's Word gives me a firm foundation on which to build my faith. I call it my faith journey. The final destination is heaven. Like any journey, I will probably get lost, make wrong turns, and hit dead ends but I am encouraged to continue because I know God is right there offering me forgiveness and grace. My journey will probably include many stops along the way, but I will keep on moving towards the ultimate goal of spending eternity with my Father in heaven. Where are you in your journey? Don't give up! I have started and stopped and started again many times, keep going!

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
teaching, rebuking, correcting and training
in righteousness, so that the man of God
may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.  ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17