Friday, June 5, 2009

thoughts

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

Just over a year ago, I realized how negative my attitude had been. (Thanks to a gentle word of conviction from my husband.) I honestly had no idea.

At first, I was greatly offended. (Aren't we always?!?) The fact that Geoff hit a nerve, however, led me to pray and ask God to reveal His truth to me.

Wow. Have you ever seen a woman come out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked into her pantyhose? (Gasp.)

Yah.

That's exactly what it felt like. Everyone else knew what was going on, except me. I would have thought that I would at least have felt the draft. ;-)

As I dug into Scripture, I realized that the source of my attitude was my thoughts. Checked on those and found they were indeed a non-stop record of negativism. Eesh.

Since then, I have learned that the only way to stop negative thoughts is to replace them.

And so, following the advice of one of my mentors, I came up with a long list of power thoughts. These are Biblically based statements that I speak daily and repeat over and over.

I have six pages of power thoughts, each one sentence long. I typed them up in bullet-format and laminated the sheets. (I am a homeschool teacher, after all!)

The woman who inspired me to do this shared that she did this in her own life and found that God brought each and every one of her prayers to fruition.

Guess what?!? He's doing the very same thing for me! (And He can do the same thing for you, Friend, if you are struggling in this area.)

There is definite power in our thoughts and in our words. We have the choice whether we are meditating, thinking, rehearsing, and speaking words of life or words of death. It's that simple.

One of the areas I immediately recognized that I needed God's gift of life was in regard to accidents around the house. You know, spilled food, milk, broken dishes, etc.

If you're not sure if you need a brain "makeover," I encourage you to perform the following thought test.

First, fill a bowl with applesauce and top it with cinnamon. Second, walk over to a window that has curtains on it and stand about two feet away from it. Third, drop the bowl on the ground.

If you drop it just right, the applesauce will not only plaster your outfit, face, floor, curtains, window, and wall, but also your ceiling!

And, if you are so busy cleaning it out of your eyes and hair, you may not even notice the ceiling until weeks later.

At which point, the sticky mess will have hardened like gobs of yellowish-brown glue on your white ceiling.

(Just ask my husband. Neither of us knew the sheer velocity that was within pureed apples. Nor did we know just how difficult to clean off of painted surfaces they can be.)

Now, Friend, if you were brave enought to try my little test, how did you respond?

Did you:

(a) laugh and say, "well, at least the bowl didn't break"
(b) cry over your spilt applesauce
(c) lash out at anyone and everyone around you

Perhaps you can spare yourself the mess and just imagine yourself taking the test. After all, I don't want you (and your husband) cursing me for the volcanic mess in your dining room! :-)

Sometimes as moms, we get so overwhelmed with our responsibilities and to-do lists, that we lose touch with ourselves.

We get stuck in the rut of negative thinking (and speaking) and actually start to believe that is who we are.

The sad part is that not only do we miss out on the life that Jesus died to give us (see John 10:10), but we end up hurting those we love most. Our precious families.

Unfortunately, I know this from personal experience. Far too often, something as ridiculous as spilled food (regardless of who spilled it) caused me to choose option "c." :-( Sad, huh?

But the good news is that's not the end of Amy's Applesauce Saga.

As I said earlier, God taught me about the power of thoughts and words.

But you know, I'm still learning. It takes awhile to change habits and patterns.

The incredible thing, however, is that when we think about and speak words of life (particularly, God's words), we are able to immediately reap the benefits of the seeds (thoughts) we sow.

It's an amazing thing. I encourage you to give it a try. God is SO good!

I am thankful that in God's world, a leopard can change her spots.

It's because of Him, that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Choosing to change my thoughts,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

caught off guard

I love words and I love encouraging others with my words. On Monday afternoon, God gave me an opportunity to encourage another mom and I wasn't able to utter even a single word.

Sure, I could explain the situation from beginning to end and try to wrap pretty words around it. But it wouldn't change the truth. I wasn't able to speak life and hope into her because I was too busy judging her. :-(

I was stunned by her attitude, actions, and words and wasn't able to find any compassion in my heart. Honestly, I realized that she was a real, living example of what I look like as a mom on my worst days. Only she was acting like that in public. Gasp.

Is my sarcasm coming through?

Seriously. I'm an imperfect mom and I struggle. A lot.

There isn't a single day that goes by where I don't have a long list of all the things I did wrong, all of the balls I dropped and all of the things I missed.

On Monday, I took my kids to the library to sign them up for the Summer Reading Club. While they were filling out their forms, I heard a woman next to me sighing loudly. Clearly exasperated with her daughter who was working on her own form.

During the next ten minutes, she continued to sigh and look over at me. I honestly tried to ignore it. She reminded me of one of my own kids when they are acting up in order to receive attention.

What was impossible to ignore, however, was the fact that she was a mom who was struggling. Clearly. And I have a heart for moms. Especially those who are struggling.

After a series of dramatic sighs, I heard a loud sigh. Followed by a very cranky, "I should keep Tylenol in my car!"

I looked up from helping my son and looked into her eyes. This woman was looking for a lifeline and I was the one she was asking.

Startled by the whole interaction, I asked her if she was alright. I began to think that maybe she was more than an impatient mom. Maybe this woman had a severe medical condition. She had her hand on her head and looked seriously ill.

I could feel the concern and compassion welling up within my heart. It was one of those moments when it felt like time stood still.

She then went on to tell me, in front of her adorable little girl, how difficult it was to parent her. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, I wanted to say something, anything to get her to stop.

I know firsthand how hurtful words can be. Especially words from people who are supposed to love and nurture us. My first concern went to her daughter and I felt sad for her innocent little heart. The compassion was soon replaced by anger, I'm afraid. (Can you hear my sighs now?)

My brain started spinning as I struggled to find words to encourage this clearly overwhelmed woman.

I wanted her to know that I understood how very hard parenting can be. I wanted to let her know that I struggle too. I wanted to gently remind her of what an incredible gift it is to be a mother. I wanted to highlight the fact that mothering brings out the best and the worst in each of us. I wanted her to know that God allows those hard days in order to bring growth and healing with each of us. I wanted to be supportive, kind and non-judgemental.

Do you see how many "I's" there were in my thoughts? I was so stuck on me and my thoughts. Not once did I actually stop and seek God's wisdom.

Regardless of my intentions, I couldn't utter a single word. They lodged in my heart as I choked on my own bitter sin.

The best I could do was give her a sad look and turn away.

I could have cried on the spot. I wasn't able to love a fellow mom because I was judging her. And myself. She was showing me what I look like some days with my own kids. Within the safety of our home. Without an audience. It's not pretty.

I felt bad for judging this woman that I didn't know. I don't know the details of her life. Nor did I need to. I know the details of my life and that I'm just as guilty as she is (even more.) Sigh.

I felt disappointed in myself because I was being so judgemental, and I knew it. I felt sad because my children were watching our interaction and I wasn't setting a good example to follow.

I wasn't able to be the person that God created me to be in that moment.

I was stuck with a log in my eye, worried about this sweet woman's little sliver. Sin stinks.

And yet, God is my Redeemer. He knew how I was going to respond before I even met this woman. He knew that I needed to fail in that moment.

He knew that I needed to see a living, breathing example of how horrible I can be with my own children.

God knew that I needed to let an opportunity to glorify Him slip through my fingers. Because now I want that more than anything.

I trust that God will give me another opportunity to bless a fellow mom. My spirit longs to speak the words of love and compassion that my flesh choked on.

Next time, I'll remember to breathe a quick prayer and ask Him to help me.

Life is hard. Parenting is especially hard. We're all in this together. We're all humans in need of a God who forgives us and allows us to try again. Every moment. Every day.

I love the saying about being careful when you point your finger at someone else because there are always four more fingers pointing back at us. It was in that moment that I lost my words.

Yes, God is patient. God is forgiving. God loves me when I succeed and when I fail miserable. He is all that is good within me, and for that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for redemption,

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

celebrating 14 years!!!

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I wanted to post one of our wedding photos, but alas, that was "back in the day." You know, before we went digital? :-) So alas, you are blessed with a view we enjoyed during our honeymoon, in Negril, Jamaica.

Geoff received a very generous inheritance that paid for our wedding, an incredible honeymoon and a down-payment on our house. Not a bad way to start a marriage off, eh? God is good!

So, today we are celebrating our first 14 years of marriage together!

Indeed, God is SO good.

We certainly had our share of trials and testing. It is a testament to God and His mercy and grace that we are still together. It is only because of His unconditional love for us that our marriage withstood the test of time and endured the sin of selfishness.

Oh my. We were so into ourselves. We had much to learn about what a healthy relationship looked like. We needed to learn what true forgiveness was. How to receive it and how to grant it. We had a lot of healing to do. We had a lot of dying to self to do. We had a lot-of-a lot! :-) Seriously.

As Geoff and I look back over the years of struggle, we feel so humbled by God's love for us. And, we are so thankful for each other. I can't imagine living a day on this earth without Geoff as my best friend, my husband, my partner, my love. He balances me out and is such a FUN companion.

The more time we spend together, the more peaceful our relationship has become. Had we not experienced the struggles, we would have been unable to really enjoy the blessings of today.

We have walked through some intense fires. As individuals, as a couple and as a family. God is faithful.

I think the biggest healing our marriage experienced was when we finally learned to stop trying to change each other. God was patiently waiting for us to drop our hacksaws and learn to put our focus on Him instead. We learned to allow God to change us.

Ah, the road of least resistance. It can be a scary thing to do, but truly, once we surrendered ourselves and each other to God, the miracles of transformation began to take place. It was incredible. Amazing. Breathtaking. (But never easy!)

We are so grateful to the friends and mentors that God has brought into our lives over the years. They have taught us much through their words of encouragement and examples of love and commitment.

We have learned so much and look forward to seeing where God takes us next on our journey in marriage and life. And, all that He has to yet to teach us.

(A note to my Man: Geoff, I love you forever. I'm so thankful for your love, support and patience. I can't wait for the adventures we still have ahead of us!!!)

We have friends who are struggling in marriage and I know we all are aware of those in the media who are struggling as well. Maybe you are, my Friend.

While I don't know all the details, nor do I have all of the answers, I do want to encourage you to keep pressing into the Lord. Please don't give up on the good plan He has for your life.

God never mistakes and He will always bring us through the trials. His ways are good and He is for us!

On a side note, Geoff and I spent our anniversary morning working on our adoption paperwork. We started off getting our fingerprints done for Homeland S*curity, went to the bank and wore out a pen or two notarizing lots of docs, and then had more fingerprints done for the State of OR. Oh, and we did sneak in some yummy donuts and a couple o'Mexican Mochas to celebrate our relationship!

Celebrating love and commitment is definitely a part of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Elated and in love,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

finding balance

Have you ever played Wii Fit? During my weekend away with Chelsea, Geoff bought it for our family. Although it took me awhile to warm up to it, I've been using it on a regular basis lately.

One of the things I appreciate the most about Wii Fit is that it utilizes a balance board throughout the different exercises. In addition to getting fit, it helps develop body awareness.

After each activity, the Wii provides feedback on how well your body is balanced (or in my case, not.) For example, when you walk, do you have an equal balance of weight between your left and right foot? The system actually comes back with a ratio percentage.

Now I know why my feet have been so sore! (Thankfully, my husband gives me the best foot massages.) :-)

Before I started using the balance board, I was completely out of touch with my body. I had been walking around with really bad posture.

And, since I reside within my own body (it's alright, you can giggle, where else would I be residing?!?), it's impossible for me to gauge whether I am walking with good, balanced posture or not.

Kinda like our spiritual walks, isn't it? When we get "busy living our lives," and fail to take time to check in with the Lord, we can quickly become out of balance.

It's not that we don't desire to make good choices or be good people. We just get so focused on the things we're doing (and the way others around us are doing them), that we quickly get out of alignment without even realizing it.

The thing that makes all of this so complex is that God actually maintains a seemingly impossible balance between two things that we view as polar opposites in this world.

God's Word clearly states things in black and white. Despite our human desire, there are no gray areas with God. Sin is sin. We can choose life or death.

While He is very clear on what's good and what's bad, He is also able to hold two opposite truths in tandem. In certain areas, it's not a matter of "either/or." With God, it is often "both."

For example, God is justice and grace. And, He is a perfect balance of both. As humans, we may often describe ourselves as being all about justice, or all about grace. But both? Is that actually possible? Yes, it's not only possible, it's the only way to live. In a perfect balance.

Another paradox is that God calls us to speak the truth in love. Not an easy task for those of us who struggle with people pleasing.

We can either love someone or speak the truth, but, man it can be hard to do both on our own!

When we are looking for spiritual balance, it's essential for us to rely solely upon the Lord, otherwise we'll err on one side or the other.

While the balance board can tell me that when I walk, I lean too far back and put 8% more weight on my left foot than my right, it has no idea what the health of my spiritual heart is.

For that, I need to turn to the Lord and spend time in His Word. He alone is able to reveal to me where I am in need of a spiritual alignment. And thankfully, He can do it!

Now, if your feet or back are sore, you might find the Wii Fit balance board helpful! :-)

Still grappling with yesterday's conundrum , but I am definitely LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

In need of an alignment (physical and spiritual),

Monday, June 1, 2009

it's not about ME

My pastor has been doing a message series titled, "Finding the Hidden Treasure." This past Sunday, he asked each of us to close our eyes and ask God to reveal to us what we treasure most.

Luke 12:34 tells us "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Obviously, we all want our treasure to be found in Christ because that is where our hearts truly belong.

Imagine my surprise when God spoke to me that my treasure was myself. You see, I'm not a prideful person, at least in the way most of us think of pride.

Rather than thinking I am really great, I continually think of all of the things that are wrong with me that I need to fix. (Note the emphasis on "I.")

The truth is that pride can go both ways. We can err on the side of thinking we are the "end all, be all." Or, we can err on the side of not appreciating the value that God created in us.

The fact is that God Himself lives within us and therefore we are incredible creations. No, we're not perfect, but when we find our purpose and sense of worth in Him, we are in fact invaluable.

By allowing myself to be stuck in the pit of self-loathing and striving, I have allowed my thoughts to be focused totally and completely on myself.

Ouch. :-(

There is no Jesus in the all of the negatives that I meditate on 24x7. And that, my Friends, is pride.

God showed me, albeit gently, that because I constantly rehash my faults and mistakes, I, in fact, have made an idol of the one thing that drives me crazy. MYSELF.

Oh my. Could it be? 'Fraid so.

Isn't it funny that when we try to avoid one sin (pride), we oftentimes go too far to the other extreme that we end up being stuck in that very sin? How's that for a brain puzzler? :-)

I'm not sure that I have the solution to all of this. But I do know that it starts with acknowledging that I've been stuck in sin and need to repent.

I'm thankful that God's mercies are new every day. I'm also thankful that when He convicts me of my sin it's because He loves me and wants to help me grow.

Titus 3:4—6 says, "When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. "

Today, I am thankful that in my imperfection, my King loves me and forgives me. I am thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

It's NOT about me,