January 31, 2013

A Book You Need to Read

I am excited about this post!!!  Don't you love it when you know you need to improve something, but you're not sure where to even start, and then BAM! something that you never knew about pops into your life.  I like to call it a "God-thing!"   Well, I had a wonderful God-thing happen a couple of weeks ago.  In my earlier post "My Word for 2013,"  I mentioned how I wanted to make my relationship with God more purposeful through prayer.  The best word I could use to describe my prayer life was purposeless!   At least, that's how I felt about it.  I was trying, but for me, it just wasn't happening, and I needed that to change.

One night, I began searching (a website you should all have bookmarked!) for a book on prayer.  I came across a book entitled The Hour That Changes the World by Dick Eastman.  I had never heard of this book or this author, but as I read the chapter titles, I knew I had to read this book.  Can I say I have been challenged in a way like never before, and this book has given much purpose to my prayer!   God knew exactly what I needed, and He used this book to show me.

Let me begin by saying that Mr. Eastman mentions several times that this book was written to offer a guideline for purposeful praying and to supply a Biblical foundation for prayer. It is not meant to be a do or die formula!  The book gives a 12-step prayer plan - breaking an hour of prayer up into 12 different parts (or if an hour is too daunting to begin with, he suggests spending 2-3 minutes on each step).  I do not want to give the entire book away, but a few of the steps are praise, intercession, waiting, thanksgiving and listening. Each chapter takes one of those steps and expounds upon it using Scripture as well as many quotes from amazing prayer warriors in our Christian history.  I found myself underlining - A LOT!  

I have begun using this 12 step plan each morning for my quiet time, and I have been in awe of the many ways God has already worked in my heart and mind.  It has given me such a sense of purpose as I pray!  Again, I want to emphasize that this is not meant to be used as a magic formula or as a regimental duty.  I have spent more time on some of the steps and have not done others.  It is different each day, but it does provide direction and focus.  If you are wanting to see your prayer life grow, I would encourage you to read this book and apply it!  I believe that this has been one of those life-changing reads for me!  Prayer itself is life changing and something that lacks greatly in our Christian circles today.  I believe with all my heart that there are many things God longs to do for us, but we never ask, and so we miss out.  As Mr. Eastman says, "Where there is an absence of prayer there will be an absence of power.  Where there is a frequency of prayer there will be a continuing display of God's power."

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

Counting God's Little Blessings - 3 Every Day:

10.  The safety of family during a tornado
11.  My little man is smiling again!
12.  New babies - they're popping out everywhere around here! :)

January 30, 2013

Being Still in the Middle of LIFE

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted... ~Psalm 46:10

I have always enjoyed the comfort this verse brings to me, but this morning as I read it again during my quiet time, I pictured it in an entirely different way.  In the past, I have pictured the be still and know as I time when I purposefully come away from all the noise of the world and focus on God.  This is true and a wonderful and entirely necessary thing to do - DAILY!  However it occurred to me this morning that God wants us to carry throughout our busy days this idea of the still and quiet heart that gently goes through the day listening for God's leading.  I began to think about last evening...Andrew was trying to read and could not figure out a word.  He was asking for my help while Garret was running through the house like a wild Indian (something he had been doing all day!), and Madelyn was screaming because Garrett touched her with his little finger (something she has been doing all day!).  Evvie was trying to help Andrew but was becoming impatient and calling him choice words because he was no longer listening and suddenly, out of nowhere, Gavin began spewing vomit! All this while I am trying to mind my own business and just clean a bathroom!  Yep...for real...that was my last evening!  God brought that crazy scene to my mind, and it seemed as though He was telling me, "Christy, when life gets like that, and you feel like you are going to explode because everyone needs you RIGHT NOW, close your eyes and for ten seconds be still and know that I am God.  I am bigger than this, and I will be exalted through this if you will be still and listen to my voice."

That's not practical, you may say!  However, what is even more impractical is blowing up at everyone and ruining everyone's evening as well as Jesus' name.  We need to make a habit - I need to make a habit - to be still even in the ridiculously crazy times of life - to be still and remember that I have a God who knows me, who is watching me, and who has promised to take care of me...if I will just. be. still.

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

Counting God's Little Blessings - 3 Every Day:
1.  Encouragement at church
2.  Like-minded believers
3.  God is still continuing a good work in me.

4.  God's helping me get up for quiet time even though I was tired.
5.  A warm fire when the snow and wind are blowing outside.
6.  The Holy Spirit's voice

7.  The flicker of candles
8.  God's never-ending love
9.  God's healing of a friend     

January 28, 2013

Becoming Chosen

The outline and majority of these thoughts (I have added a few of my own) were shared by Sarah Clarkson, Sally Clarkson's daughter, at the conference my sister and I were able to go to.  Because they were so inspiring and thought-provoking, I thought I would share them with you.

As we read through the Bible, we see over and over how God carefully chooses certain people for certain tasks - not just tasks but world changing events! What is it that God is looking for?  Why does He choose that person instead of this one?  Some of the people God chose were nothing like we may have chosen, but we must remember that God is looking at the heart - the inside part where no tricks or hypocrisy can be played.  As Sarah studied out several women in the Bible and the way God used them, she found four major themes that ran through each one's life, and these may just be the reasons why God chose them to play an exceptional part in His plan during their lifetime. 

STORY - Every person longs to know that their life has meaning, and we long to know that our lives are a part of a bigger picture.  God has called each of us to live a great part in His story, but are we willing?  God has written the story, but are we trying to rewrite it our way or play a part He didn't intend for us to have?  The way we can know God's story for us is by reading and loving His Word.  It is not just a book of rules and laws.  It is His story for our lives.

STILLNESS - In order to engage with God, we must cultivate quietness.  We must come away from the clamor of the world so that we can hear his still, small voice speaking to us.  Mary was a ponderer. Esther waited, prayed and fasted for three days before she approached the king. Mary of Bethany sat at the feet of Jesus.  All of these women remind us that we cannot be greatly used by God unless we come away from everything else and be still and hear His voice.

SUFFERING - Mary suffered much as the mother of the Savior of the world.  Esther knowingly risked her life when she could have easily hidden her identity.  Mary of Bethany followed Jesus faithfully and probably experienced ridicule and rejection from family and friends. Suffering will come to all of us, but we, like these women in Scripture, must meet suffering with faith. What does it mean to live godly in a broken world?  It means creating life and beauty and celebration in the midst of the dark times and suffering that comes.  It means believing always in a beautiful and good God who has your best interests at heart.

SENT - Each person ever to be used by God in an extraordinary way has always been willing to do anything and go anywhere.  Are you willing to live the story God has planned for you?  Are you willing to be chosen?  Because if you are, "the God of the universe wants to meet with you."

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

January 25, 2013

Homeschool Journal - 1/25

Now that it is January 25, I thought I would finally link back up to the Homeschool Mother's Journal!!! I have missed doing this, and I want to be able to keep a record of this journey so that I can look back on it in the future with a fondness that I may not always feel right now! :)


In my life this week...
I feel like I am beginning to feel our rhythm of life again.  I know! I know! It has taken forever, but I am thankful that life is slowing down.  I have also adjusted several things in my personal schedule and in our school schedule making things flow a little more smoothly.  

In our homeschool this week...
Because I was away for part of last week attending Sally Clarkson's conference, we were playing a bit of catch up this week.  We focused primarily on phonics, reading, math and history.  I have begun using The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, and the kids are enjoying it very much!  It teaches history in chronological order and comes with an activity guide that includes projects as well as suggestions for more reading on each subject.
Garrett and Madelyn began reading WORDS this week!  My babies are growing up on me!  It is still a very slow process, but their smile when they finally read the entire word all together is absolutely worth it! 

Our biggest homeschooling change this semester has been to finally switch over to year round schooling.  I've thought of doing this several times but was not completely sure of the capacity of my self-discipline!  (I still am not sure of it!)  However, looking at the schedule, there was just no way to teach 3 and possibly 4 different age levels, keep up with a baby, and keep up with home and the sweet Mr.  It has taken so much pressure off of me to focus on our larger subjects 3 days a week and our smaller subjects 2 days each week!  I can breathe again!  Now, if I can just keep it going during the summer months when we are so tempted to be lazy and enjoy the sunshine!

My favorite thing this week was...
Watching the kiddos all work together to plan and write a play about Samson - our Bible lesson this week!  They even had balloons blown up and shoved up Andrew's shirt for his "strong muscles" and then popped the balloons when his strength left him!  A+ for creativity!
I'm grateful for...
Being able to go to the conference last week!!! It was such an inspiring weekend, and I was able to go with my sister who I only get to see about once a year!  I'm also extraordinarily grateful to my sweet Mr. for watching the kiddos while I was gone.  He handled things quite well with the help of the second mom in the house, Evvie! (Who, by the way, received a bouquet of flowers from her Daddy for being such a helper!)

I'm praying for...
Wisdom in the area of managing my time!  I have sooooo many things I want to accomplish in this life, and it seems like there is never enough time!  I need wisdom to focus on what is most important right now and to know what I should save for another day.  

A quote (or few) to share:
A few more quotes from Sally's conference:
"We (moms) will never be good enough, but God is more than enough."
"If you do not have a large vocabulary, you cannot think profound thoughts."
"We do not have heroes because people do not live by God's purpose."
"Hope believes that my life will matter."
"The difficult times that come into your life will be what allows your children to see your faith.  They will remember what it looks like to serve God in difficult circumstances because they saw you do it."

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

January 24, 2013

More Thoughts from Sally for ALL Ladies!

Although I have written this post in the context of motherhood, it truly can apply to anyone!

I still have so many thoughts swirling around in my mind from the conference, and I have been trying to put it all into practice as well!  I have to remind myself - a little at a time.  No one ever changed the world overnight, but I would sure love to! :)  I thought that today I would share a few things that stood out from all the rest.  One of the biggest differences I have found in Sally has been her emphasis of her quiet time.  I have always heard so many moms talk about how having babies and preschoolers is such a physically exhausting time (AMEN!) and how during this season of life we may not have time for long quiet talks with God or for saturating our lives with His Word.  Because of this, I have always felt that I should long for those quiet times, but a quick read and prayer off and on throughout my day is fine too.  Sally, however, emphasizes that we as moms cannot live a holy, set apart, noble life if we do not have a close and intimate relationship with the One who is holy.  As Sally reminded us life is not perfect - it never has been, and it never will be.  I need to stop waiting for my life to slow down, and instead, I need to make my relationship with Christ my priority.  If I do not do this, how can I expect my children to?  Do I always manage to have a wonderful, uninterrupted quiet time.  Not always.  But by dying to myself and my own selfish desires, I have begun to make more time for DAILY quiet times.  Now, before anyone accuses me of being a legalist (because we do fling that word around quite a bit, don't we?), let me say, I do not believe that this is something I must do in order to prove I am saved; nor do I believe that if I miss a day, I need to beat myself over the head about it all day.  I do believe, though, that the best gift I can give my children is to have a real, living, wholehearted, want Jesus more than anything relationship, and that takes TIME!  "If you're not engaging your heart with God, you are dying."

The second big thought that stood out to me during this conference was that God made women for each other - to encourage each other and to teach each other.  We women have become enemies to one another in an effort to outdo the other or to look better than the other.  We need to put aside our pride, and ask God to help us accept the wisdom other women have to offer while also reaching out to encourage them.  Sally pointed out how the midwives banded together to help protect the Hebrew boys from the cruel Pharoah.  God blessed them for that!  She reminded us of Ruth and Naomi and how God used Ruth who was considered to be "out of the circle" to encourage and lift up Naomi at one of her lowest times of life.  Even though Ruth was not who we would have chosen for this job, God chose her because she had a heart that longed for Him.  The relationship that Mary and Elisabeth had enabled Mary to walk through what was probably an emotionally difficult and lonely pregnancy.  Lois and Eunice appear to be the primary faith builders in the life of Timothy, and from the little God gives us in Scripture, we can assume that they accomplished this task together - helping one another and supporting each other.  "When women walk together with God, history is changed."  

The last thought that I heard Sally repeat several times was that we are in a spiritual warfare.  (You can see another post on spiritual warfare here.) As Christians, we many times forget that we are walking in a world of darkness - a world that longs to snatch our children from us.  We cannot forget that the family is Satan's biggest enemy.  If he can cause the fathers to quit leading, the mothers to quit caring, and the children to quit listening, then he has conquered.  Christians have been so consumed by the world that we do not even realize how much worldly philosophy we carry with us!  The most important question is not "What will my child be when he grows up?"!  It is, "Who will my child live for when he grows up?"  We must fight for our children's hearts, and it is a hard fight!  BUT, with God, all things are possible, and we can win the victory through His strength!  

God made women for a purpose, and sadly, our generation of women have forgotten, or possibly never even knew, what that purpose was.  If you will live your life God's way - whether you are  a mom or not - you will find purpose and beauty and rest.  No other way will do.  Seek God with your whole heart, place Him first in everything, center your entire life around Him - every decision, every thought, every action - and then you will find that all your emptiness and expectations will be filled.
Wishing you a day full of blessings,