Friday, January 31, 2014

Check-in day.  I lost .8 pounds this week---that makes  11.8 in total, I think.  This week was a bit tough.  I was ill on Tuesday---didn't eat a lot----but on Wednesday, I was starving---got to the point where I just didn't measure things out or count anything much.  I still avoided sugar----and I really don't think I ate anything too awful.  But---I didn't really accurately track what I was eating.  I exercised Monday and Tuesday (before I got sick later that morning)----but then I was still feeling beat down on Wednesday---so I skipped exercising----Thursday I just forgot to reset my alarm.  And now, here we are on Friday with a loss of less than a pound.  But that's really ok.  Feeling well enough about that.  So long as the scale is going down---so long as I'm not bailing out on the fight---I'm ok with it.

Read about Jacob wrestling with the angel this morning.  I love this story.  There's a great article about that here :

I always wondered---how did Jacob wrestle with an angel and win?  How is that even possible?

I love the article's explanation.  It talks about how Jacob had been fighting with God---really all is life---tricking people---deceiving and lying to get his way---without ever relying on God to care for him...This fight happens right after Jacob fled from Laban---and right before he's going back to the lands of Esau--as God commanded him---and he's frightened of Esau----because the last time he saw Esau---he stole his inheritance by pretending to be Esau---the oldest son---while speaking with his aged father.

God tried to get Jacob to understand that the real fight isn't the one going on between Jacob and Esau---but the one going on between Jacob and God.  The angel wrestles with him---all night long----but when the angel is ready to go---he dislocates Jacob's hip with a mere touch.  It isn't as if the angel couldn't have overtaken Jacob in the fight effortlessly at any moment----he fought with him for Jacob's sake.  He fought with him all night until Jacob was completely exhausted---and ready to rely only on God----until Jacob said "Bless me."  Until Jacob acknowledges where the blessings are really coming from----they don't come from Jacob's cleverness or his machinations----they come from God...

The angel also asks Jacob---Who are you?  The last person who asked Jacob---who are you?  was his father when he was about to bestow his blessing upon the person he thought was his eldest son.  The last time Jacob answered that question---it was with a lie---I'm Esau---he said to his father....  So it's doubtful that this is a coincidence when the angel asks this question again---a question that he obviously knows the answer's a reminder----it forces Jacob to confront who he really is---what he has really done----and when Jacob answers truthfully---the angel blesses him.....

Any struggle we have with God doesn't keep going because God can't end it with one goes on for our own bring about self-awareness---to bring about the realization that God is the only thing we need to depend on....I love how beautifully this story depicts that...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blessings:  sweet friends that I get to teach with.  So--a few days ago we were celebrating a friend's birthday at work.  My friends at work know that I'm trying to cut out sweets for a month.  Our librarian went to pick up cupcakes for the celebrations---but she also picked up a cup of mango for me---because she said I should have a treat too.  It wasn't even my birthday---and she went through the trouble to find out my favorite fruit (I never would have said mango if I'd known she was actually planning on grabbing some for me--it can be troublesome to find--I thought we were just talking about fruit---I'm kind of oblivious....most of the time)---and then bring it along with the cupcakes the next day.  I am blessed by sweet and thoughtful friends.

Another blessing---cooking a meal that didn't turn out awful or result in fire, flood, or any other natural disaster which is common in my kitchen.  Yay for Pioneer Woman cooks sour cream noodle bake.  Turned out well---and things are left basically intact.  Huzzah.

Prayers:  Again---they repeat.  Today, one of my family members is having that second interview---so I prayed especially for her today.  Also, it is a friend's birthday---so I prayed for her too---that she would feel beloved today.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reading about Jacob and Esau today.  It's always been difficult for me to understand the story of Jacob and Esau.  Jacob schemes and lies to steal away Esau's birthright---and then again to take his blessing.   The commentary I'm reading says that Jacob does these things because he is spiritually hungry---and that God will work with imperfect people----God will be present with imperfect people---when they passionately pursue him.  The Bible says Esau despised his birthright----and the commentary notes that Esau was more concerned with the physical world than the spiritual one.  There's a verse somewhere that says something like--"For Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated."  That one has always disturbed me....

Of course, God would have blessed Jacob regardless.  Jacob didn't really have to lie and cheat his way into having God's blessings---and Jacob will have a hard life for a few years because of his treachery.  But God will not give up on him.  As Jacob is fleeing his home, because Esau is literally ready to kill him----he has a dream---Jacob's ladder---the angels going up and down.  God gives Esau the same promise He gave to Abraham---about blessing His family.  And He says:  "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."  Genesis 28:15

I can't help of think of the dreams I had when Stuart and I were going through the adoption process.  Two have stayed with me.  One dream---after we met M, the biological mother of a child who had chosen us to parent---but who would ultimately decide to parent herself.  Stu and I had met her several times---and we thought M was lovely and vibrant.  Stu and I had stayed up talking late one night---about how--yes, we wanted a child----but how, part of us was very sad that the child couldn't stay with his biological mother.  We were both excited about the prospect of parenting----but also very sad about the brokenness that is intrinsic to adoption.  For us to have a new family---another family must first be broken.  It is not an easy thing to accept.  That night, I dreamed---I stood with a man---nondescript---and he just told me---"This is all going to work out.  More than just work out---it's going to be good.  It's going to look as if things aren't ok----but they are.  All will be well."  At the time, I thought that perhaps the dream meant the adoption would work out for the best.  Looking back, I think it meant that the child would end up where he was supposed to end up---with his first family----and that all is well.

The second dream occurred the night before Miriam was born----an old woman sat with me on a mossy stone.  And she told me matter of factly:  "You can do this.  You can do this because the Holy Spirit is with you.  The Holy Spirit is in you.  The Holy Spirit is around you."  And she repeated those words.  And the next day---as Miriam's birth was accompanied by uncertainty about whether or not the adoption would take place--the Holy Spirit was with us.  In the coming days, as we would fall in love with our daughter---I would see Stuart, as I can still see him vividly now---sitting in the chair with Miriam's fingers curled around his---he would meet my eyes---and we would be thinking the same thing---what if this adoption plan falls through?  And even then---the Holy Spirit was with us---gave us a peace beyond understanding.....

God is with us---even when we are imperfect.....

I write these things today to memorialize them----as Jacob laid the stones to remember---I'm writing these words to remember----the goodness of God.  The way he comes to us in the details of our lives and cares for us with such kindness that we don't deserve.   God is good.

Blessings:  getting to hang out with Joshua, Nikki, Ashley, and Kristy last night.
                   And many, many more

Prayers:  they repeat still....they are many as well.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Well, checkin day for week 3.  I lost 2 pounds this week.  So I'm down 11 in all.  I stayed under my calorie goal every day except for Wednesday when I went a couple of hundred calories over.  But yesterday, I was significantly under the calories I could have used---so I say it all works out in the end.  I've added exercise this week.  Very little---just 10 minutes in the morning on my own and 10 at night with the kiddo.  I enjoy the light floor aerobics routines that are a little dancey.  I've found that I do best if the patterns of movement are varied enough that I have to think more about the steps than how fast I'm moving.  And I cannot stick with a program where the instructor marches, dances, exercises, whatever---off the beat.  The music teacher in me just can't handle it.  Petra Kolber is really just a delightful instructor via DVD---and I enjoy her routines.  So that's going well.  I plan to keep it at my little piddly ten minutes am and pm one more week before upping my exercise time a bit.  I could handle more physically---but training myself to get up earlier is the biggest challenge here---and I'm really in no hurry.  I have no time limit on losing weight, etc.  I just want to be fit to serve---I want to break down the idol of food (which is a sad thing to admit, but I do think food is an idol when I let it control me the way that I have in the past)  And I want to be able to keep up with my athletic, little girl.

Today, I am thanking God for blessing me with three weeks of strength to stick with this.  Because---let's not kid ourselves----on my own---I just can't do it.  On my own, I need a chocolate shake to make it through the day.  But with God---I just need to remember to call on the strength that He's already agreed to give me.  And I want to lean on Him----and nothing else.

Still reading through Genesis each morning.  Right now, I'm reading about Isaac's family---his wife, Rebekah---his sons:  Jacob and Esau.  Just a side note---I talked about Abraham yesterday, traveling through Abimelech's lands and telling everyone his wife was his sister to save his own skin.  I didn't remember at all that Isaac does the same thing---travels through Abimelech's land and tells everyone that Rebekah is his sister----because he believes that someone will kill him so he can have her for himself.  Which--I suppose---when you read through the Old testament you see that it is a legitimate concern.  But still---come on guys...really???  Again, imperfect people being blessed by a holy, perfect God.  And thank goodness God doesn't treat us the way we deserve to be treated....

Blessings:  I try really hard to remember my kids' names---it's difficult because I see the whole school---and I tend to get sibling groups mixed up, etc.  But the kids know I really try to learn their names because I take little name tests at certain times throughout the year---just to make sure I'm keepin up with everyone.  They love it when I take a name test---and they especially love it if I happen to get a name wrong.  But that's another story.  After class on Wednesday, two of my fifth graders generally like to stay after class and give me a name test whether I want to take it or not.  A boy and a girl approach me--"What's my name???" they ask each week.  And here's the thing---I know their names, but they come up with elaborate nicknames that I am also supposed to remember---and the nicknames change on a weekly basis---ridiculous things like Fabio, Ferdinand, etc.  It's just a game we play.  So this Wednesday---I said Fabio and M-dawg.  Now, M-dawg is this little skinny, quiet as a mouse girl---so I find the name M-dawg somewhat hilarious.  Then M-dawg tells me--No I'm Mad--dawg!  And now Fabio wants to be called J-dawg.  I tell M-dawg---I'm so sorry Mad-dawg---I will try to get it together for you.  She pats me on the shoulder---with fake concern and humor lining her face---"It's ok Mrs. Finch, one day you'll get it right."  I just love these little, silly moments with the kids.  They make me happy.

Yesterday morning, first thing---a kid in the hallway randomly told me--"You are so beautiful,"  Such sweetness.

Prayers:  family members with illness, difficulties.
                 Students dealing with illnesses.
                 Family member still getting ready for that interview that keeps getting pushed back.
                 And many more.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I woke up thinking about relationships this morning.  How people change and grow.  I've heard people say things before like, "A tiger can't change his stripes,"---and I suppose that in a frustrating relationship with someone who just seems caught in a loop of undesirable behaviors--- it can feel that way sometimes.  But when I look back on what I've seen so far----thankfully, that just doesn't seem to be true all of the time.  We are changed by our experiences/our surroundings---in good ways---in not so good ways----as surely as an egg in a pot of boiling water is changed by its environment.  And when you throw God into the mix---who delights in making all things new----on perfecting His plan by using the most imperfect people----well, things can really get interesting.  In Miriam's bible, it starts off by saying something like, "Some people think the bible is a book of rules.....others think it's a book about heroes telling stories about what they have done for God.....but really the Bible is about God and what He has done."  It isn't difficult to see that the "heroes" of the Bible are just people---people struggling with sin, fear, and misconceptions---and everything good that they accomplish is done only with the strength of a graceful, merciful God.  Even Abraham----that story about Abraham traveling through unfamiliar territory kills me----he gets scared of the people there---anxious that they will kill him because Sarah is so beautiful that they will want her.  So he tells Sarah---"Do me this kindness.  You must say that you are my sister..."  Oh come on, Abraham.  Really?  Luckily, when Abimelech wants to take Sarah as his wife---God intervenes.  The story of Abraham and Sarah's marriage fascinates me----because it must have been one rocky ride.  And yet---despite all this----in the end, we see Abraham mourning Sarah---going through a great deal of trouble to find a suitable burial place for her.  We know he loved her.  I imagine she loved him---in spite of everything.  I am reminded again to show grace in relationships----none of us are already who we will become.  We are all works in progress---God shows us enormous grace----and when we are given this much grace ourselves---it is expected that we also give that kind of grace to others through our friendships, marriages, relationships of any kind.

CS Lewis gives another perspective on why we should be kind and show grace in our dealings with each other:

"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."

Or, put another way:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare."

Lewis reminds us that we all go on forever---one way or the other---we become the companions of God, as was intended when we were created----or we become creatures of infinite wickedness.....and so it is no small thing how we relate to each we treat one another....

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

May the seeds that are planted
Find good soil and take root
May they grow, may they flourish
May they bear healthy fruit.

Lord, please forgive me
When my branches are bare
When I turn from Your joy
And turn towards despair

Sometimes the darkness
Spins truth with a curve
This is what you have been
This is what you deserve.

And perhaps this is so
But completely misleading
Irrelevant when you are seeking
And heeding

A voice that has said
I will dwell within you
And from what you were
I will make something new....

Blessings:  the kid on the intercom yesterday who, while finishing the pledge of allegiance, said "with liberty, justice.....and all."  Funny how one changed word can so totally alter the meaning.  I was tickled.
The light snow that fell yesterday---snow always makes my heart lighter.

family, friends, students----that God is with them as they face times where their health is in jeopardy.
Family member with a second interview today.
For students dealing with a personal loss.
And, of course, many more.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Well--it's been two weeks.  For those two weeks---I've counted calories and kept them at or below the goal set for me by that handy dandy little fitness app.  Now--I'm very slowly adding some exercise---just for a few minutes in the morning on my own---and then for a few minutes in the afternoon with Miriam.  When the weather is nice enough, we'll use that as outside play time together.  But I've ordered some little fitness videos geared towards kids for the days that it's too cold, rainy, or dark.  They haven't come in yet---so yesterday I was curious if Miriam would be at all interested in just some regular old light floor aerobics since she loves dancing so much and it is kind of like dancing....I stuck the tape in---and Miriam immediately climbed on top of her little table, grinned, and started dancing.  I nixed the table dancing for obvious reasons---but she then seemed to have a really good time dancing on the floor----even imitating the little squats----ummm---hilarious.  It made the exercises fun for me too.  And Stu was endlessly entertained.  Miriam always has a way of making things better.

I attempted to make quinoa yesterday----I just found out that isn't pronounced qwin-oh-uh---but rather keen-wa.  Keen-wa----for some reason I want to say that with a British accent.  I think it would have turned out better if I hadn't substituted garlic salt for garlic.  Eh---live and learn.  The night before the quinoa experiment gone wrong---I attempted to make beef and vegetable chili for dinner---this also went terribly awry.  I have no idea what I did wrong---but the resulting chili was an abomination to taste buds everywhere----way too spicy (I did catch myself starting to put in two tablespoons of cumin rather than two teaspoons---but I corrected the error....really)---and even if it hadn't been too spicy---the taste of the chili under the spices was just----bad.....really bad.  We ending up having random things from the pantry that night.  I don't think that the kitchen and I will ever make peace really.  We are just mortal enemies.

In my devotion time this morning---I read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  There's a cheery romp for you.  This, to me, remains one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible.  I can imagine Abraham pleading on behalf of any righteous people who might be found in those cities.....If you can find just fifty--Lord---might they be saved...forty....thirty...twenty...ten.  And the angel of the Lord says---if I can find ten people I will save the cities on their behalf. And then the angels go to Sodom---Lot takes them into his house for protection----and then the whole town surrounds the house, trying to break down the doors---threatening sexual violence upon the visitors.  Lot---whose morals must have been skewed from his time in Sodom---actually tries to offer up his own daughters in exchange for his guests.  Disturbing---there's really just no other word for it.   And yet----there are places where the cruelty and violence of Sodom and Gomorrah can still be found.....and I suppose that we know from Genesis that God's patience for evil is not something that will last forever...

Blessings:  Miriam's dancing.  :)  

Prayers:  Friends and family struggling with illnesses.
                 Friend: unspoken
                 Family:  second interview coming up.  Yay!
                 Colleagues at school and students.
                 Student struggling with illness.
                 Students struggling with loss.
                As always, many more.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Check in day:
Well, this week I lost another 4.2 pounds.  So, in two weeks, I've lost a total of 9.2 pounds.  That's more than I was expecting to lose---and I'm thankful for that much weight being gone.  It's not much really for someone like me who has so much weight to lose----but it's still a lot.  It's enough to make me feel a lot better---not as sleepy all the time---more active during the day----more myself.

If yesterday had been a test---I'm pretty sure I would have failed.  Just reading through yesterday's notes from my devotion time----it is uncanny how applicable they were for that particular day---- I could have drawn strength from them if I had bothered to try.  Sometimes words are for the wind----let them go---show people grace because many times our words don't come from our true self----show people the grace you want them to show you when you say something that isn't really from you.  Still working on it.  Still praying that God will work on my heart---because sometimes it can be so very hard.

Something from one of my pastor's sermons keeps jumping out at me too---he once talked about idols and how pervasive they can be in our lives.  One idol he noted was a people pleasing idol.  He said something along the lines of---Nobody even better talk to me if I preach a bad sermon.  And he believed that this attitude---this feeling of almost devastation----is revealing of a people pleasing idol that he struggles with.  I'm pretty sure I struggle with that one too.   I should not feel so sad if I don't live up to someone's expectations----not if I'm giving all I have---and doing my best.  Oh my goodness, it doesn't matter.  And yet---that little horrible part of myself wants to make a good impression---wants people to think "She is doing a great job!"  Bah!  Build a bridge and get over it.  Except I know I can't build my own bridge---which brings us back to why I'm here---early in the morning---praying to God for change---for a bridge, not of my own making.

Blessings:  I am thankful for  a husband who loves me unconditionally---who has taken over with Miriam two nights in a row while I work late at school.  For a family who invites us over to dinner because they know I ain't cooking here at the end of a crazy week.  I'm thankful for that kid who---when asked---tell us something you learned about Martin Luther King---said, with awe in his voice---he was a king!!!  I'm thankful for the first grader who asked me "Is your job hard?"  I replied---"Sometimes--but it's a lot of fun too---"  And he smiled at me with that sweet smile that only a child can muster.  That was a good moment.  I'm thankful for Miriam---perched on Papa's foot and asking for a bite of apple pie.  Also---a good moment.

Prayers:  Praying for family members and friends who are dealing with illnesses and upcoming surgeries.  Praying for a family member waiting to hear back after a job interview.  And many, many more that I'll leave unspoken.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?" Job 6:26

From Piper's Devotion:  "In grief and pain and despair, people often say things they otherwise would not say.  They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up....What shall we do with these words?  Job says that we do not need to reprove them.  These words are wind--or literally "for the wind"  They will quickly be blown away...Therefore, the point is, let us not spend our time and energy reproving such words.  They will be blown away of themselves on the wind.  One need not clip the leaves in autumn.  It is a wasted effort.  They will soon blow off of themselves.  O how quickly we are given to defending God, or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind.  If we had discernment, we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.....What you hear is not the deepest thing within.  There is something real within where they come from.  But it is temporary---like a passing infection----real, painful, but not the true person."

One of my resolutions this year was to show more grace towards people.  I still struggle with the notion that if someone says an unkind word to me---or, more often, about me----(gossip that loops back to its source)---that I don't have time for that person anymore.  When I disregard God---my natural, old self is very unforgiving---and can hold a grudge for an embarrassing amount of time.

But then, when I look at myself---if  I say something thoughtless that is then perceived to be unkind----I get peeved.  Because I think to myself---I didn't mean it that way.  Something I said struck a chord I didn't even know existed---show me some grace...

Grace is so much easier to expect---to receive----than it is so extend.  I pray today for discernment---let me know when to deal with words that have roots--- but when to let a light breeze carry off words that are "not the deepest thing within..."

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”  ----George Eliot

Blessings:  Thankful to have a dad who still will drop everything to help me if I run into trouble.

Prayers:   Many

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I often have this conversation with my students:  rests are difficult for us---because we want to fill them with sound.  It's part of our nature---we want to rush past them and get to the part where we get to make the music.  But here's the thing to remember---the silence is a part of the music.  Don't rush the silence---it isn't something apart from the music.  It is the music---it's just as important as the part of the music that is sound.  It builds anticipation---or it can turn a rhythm from symmetrical to asymmetrical---it can create syncopation.  Or it can just give a phrase which has arced and descended---space to breathe.  Where the silence is placed---how long the silence lasts---it's a part of the music.  It's part of what makes the music mean what it means.

I've been reading about God's promise to Abram this morning---God's promise that he would bless him with a large and prosperous family.  But Abram and Sarai become impatient, and take matters into their own hands.  And some fair amount of heartbreak follows.

I suppose the seasons of life that are the hardest for us to manage are the ones in between anticipation and its fulfillment--the ones where God seems silent.  This Bible story reminds me----don't rush past the silence---it isn't something apart---it's part of what makes our lives mean what they mean.

Yesterday, as I was pulling out of the garage, I noticed that our old fence was crusted with ice crystals---the morning light caught them and they shimmered like something out of a fairy tale.  The fence is old, broken in places, and yet when the ice reflected back the light of the sun---it became beautiful.  Hope.  I, also, want to reflect back something beautiful.  There is nothing beautiful in me alone---I am broken.  But I still hope to catch the light---and then reflect it back out into the darkness.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The hair on the back of my neck
Starts to prickle
The air is electric
Adrenaline trickles.
Like drops from a faucet
Whose intensity shifts
To that of great falls
Rushing over the cliffs.
It's more than the senses 
Could ever detect
No matter which of them
I choose to select.
Should my vision sharpen
Becoming more clear
Or my ears heighten
To more vibrantly hear.
Perhaps I could follow
Every beautiful slant
Of light and of brilliance
Of melodic descant.
As it is--I just know
There is more than appears
And God is still present
He draws ever near.
He is the Seeker
When we are too weak
He is Compassion
When the world is so bleak.
He is the spark---
That can light up a stone
The Lord of the seen
And what is unknown...

Random Morning Thoughts:
I sometimes think that the second week of any lifestyle change can be the hardest.  I'm wanting to fall back into old habits.  Found some candy leftover from Christmas in my desk yesterday and seriously wanted to just sit down and eat the whole thing.  But, I didn't.  Getting up earlier to have quiet time in the Bible and in prayer also seems to be more challenging this week.  The alarm goes off and I think---I don't really have to get up yet.....but so far I've been getting up anyhow.  Still praying for strength and change in my heart.  I committed to this daily quiet time for five days a week--but after going two days without it---I'm pretty sure I need it every day.  Sunday provides that quiet time/Bible study naturally in church----but I think I need to have a quiet time on Saturday mornings as well.  It's just too easy to push God to the back burner when I don't make an intentional effort to spend some time with Him.  

From Devotion Time
Romans 8:5-6  "Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."

From Piper's devotional regarding this verse:  "This is stunning.  What you set your mind on determines whether the issue is life or death."

Stuart and Miriam playing ball together---a house of squeals and laughter.  
Playing chase with Miriam and watching her dance.
A good day with the kids at school yesterday.

Family struggling with illness
Students affected by personal loss
Family member with a job interview today
Praying for Miriam's relationship with Christ someday.
(And others...)

Monday, January 13, 2014

I've been a shadow
A giant as well--
One foot in this world
One foot bound for hell.
But great fear and great pain--
They draw back the curtain
Between that which is questionable
And that which is certain.
No matter I was too proud
To call out His name
No matter my foolishness
He came just the same.

The dogs started barking about five minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off this morning.  So--there's that.

Sorry--sleepier than usual this morning---all of this may not make a ton of sense.  

From Piper's devotion: "How does a dead man obey a command to live again?  The answer seems to be: The command carries the power to create new life.  Obedience to the command means doing what living people do.  This is extremely important.  The command of God, "Rise from the dead!" carries in it the power we need to obey it.  We do not obey it by creating that life.  We obey it by doing what living people do---Lazarus came forth.  He rose.  He walked out to Jesus.  The call of God creates life.  We respond in the power of what the call created."

Sometimes living a Godly life seems impossible----seems completely undoable.  I suppose that's because it is impossible---for me--for anyone---so long as we leave God out of the equation.  The commands of God carry within them the power we need to obey them.  I know that if I try to live two minutes outside of keeping God forefront in my heart that in the next two minutes I'm going to be crying out and saying--God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  

Some blessings---beautiful Sunday.  After a really good message from Pastor Lorritts about going to war with your idols (strange how precisely relevant that was for me)----we took Miriam to the Botanic Gardens and let her ride her tryke around the paths that weave through My Big Backyard.  It was lovely---and I'm thankful for that special time we had together.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Giants and shadows 
Threaten and knock
Rattling the doors
And unhinging the locks.
But shadows are nothing
More than reflections
Shades of reality
Vague misconceptions.
And giants too large
In their own estimation
See none but themselves
And this is damnation....

Fridays are going to be my weigh-in/check-in day.  I know I need the accountability to continue on this path.  I've been tracking calories with that little My Fitness App---which lets you say how much weight you want to lose per week and then gives you a calorie goal for each day.  I set mine to lose just 1 pound a week.   And I am attempting to go 30 days without sugar (not completely---I still eat fruit and yogurt---really I guess I'm just going thirty days without dessert food or using sugar as a sweetener, if that makes sense.)  I have noticed that when the cookies and candies are cut out of the equation, you really don't fill up your calorie goal as quickly and get more bang for your buck.  I guess that's common sense---but I haven't really ever tried to completely cut all of that out before---so it's new to me.  

So, for week 1:  I lost 5 pounds.  I know a lot of that is probably just water weight.  And I do have a large amount a weight that I need to lose, so I know I will lose a little faster here at the beginning.  But I'm happy with that.  

I haven't started exercising yet---I want to add everything in slowly----really going for lifestyle changes here.  So the plan is to track calories for a couple of weeks---and then add in just a few minutes of exercise---and slowly increase time/intensity.  I used to love to exercise---it always cleared my head and made me feel more myself.  So, I'm looking forward to slowly building up to that again.

Perhaps it sounds silly for me to say that God is lending me strength throughout this---(I know it's only been a few days)----but I know that He is.  I know that as long as I lean on Him---and not on other, lesser things (food, peer approval, etc)----that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.  I hope that throughout this year, I can grow stronger in Him alone---both spiritually and physically.  And that in Him---I can become who I'm meant to be---a Godly wife, mother, friend, teacher---and whatever other hat God wants me to wear---whatever other role I'm meant to fill.  

This morning reflection time is a time of prayer as well as reflection and devotion.  I have some friends and family members right now going through some incredibly difficult things.  I want you to know--if you're reading this----that this time of prayer has been a lot about you.  It's all I know how to do where I am---but I know that God will wrap His arms around you---I know that whatever you face---you won't face it alone.  I haven't been able to find the right words to say---or the right time to say them---I just come up blank.  But my heart is with you---and my prayers.  

"And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

This morning, I am thankful for yesterday---for a successful day at school---for feeling like God can still use me there---for His strength and not mine.  It is difficult when everything is assigned a number---everything is evaluated, whether or not it is subjective---whether or not it is even under your control.  It's just difficult.  But it shouldn't be---because deep down, I know those numbers don't really mean anything.  The only thing that I can really give significance to is the answer to these questions----Am I being obedient to God today?  Am I treating others the way He would want me to? Am I working on building up His kingdom? Am I remembering to not attempt to seize control---but rather, to rest in His will.  It's silly the things we worry about-----just a pattern of numbers that are supposed to represent your merit.  And yes--with all the uncertainties that abound---it's easy to think---those numbers determine my future, my career---etc.  But no---they really don't.  Nothing and no one but God determines anything.  So---I'll continue to just do my best---and to try and depend on Him for the strength I need.  Because---surprisingly enough---it seems He's lending it to me, just like He said He would.  The evil part of me likes to say---Yes, but for how long?  And then,  I think it's the Holy Spirit that whispers---Well, for as long as you'll let Him.

Quotes from this morning's devotional:

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ---will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.   1 Peter 5:10

Referring to this verse, John Piper says:  "The assurance that He will not delay beyond what we can endure and that He will abolish the flaws we bemoan and that he will establish forever what has tottered so long---that assurance comes from all grace..."

In Genesis this morning, I read about the Tower of Babel.   I love the story of the Tower of Babel. It showcases humans doing what they do best---saying--eh, I can do this myself.  I'll pull myself up by my bootstraps---build a tower to heaven----I don't need God's strength---I've got my own.  And God knows that when we do things on our own---if we really got our way and He just let us do whatever we wanted---without Him---that would be hell.  Which is totally what we deserve---so He could've just said---Ok kids---go ahead---build that tower---be your own God.  Good luck with that.  But no---God loves us---He continually comes after us even when we run from Him.  Because He has such beautiful plans for us---much more lovely than anything we could create or imagine----and even when we run---He just keeps on a coming.  Thankful, this morning.  Thankful for every blessing that I don't deserve.  Thankful that every time I've run---or started building my tower---God has come after me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

---Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed on January 8, 1956---while trying to bring the gospel to Auca tribe of 60 people.

Today, I want to try and remember what matters.  Do not give significance to the insignificant.  Do not hold on to insignificant things while losing as grasp on what is significant.  Every day is a new chance to recognize the weakness in myself and to understand that God's love and God's work can be made complete even in my weakness---if I let go of trying to be in control of everything----and just allow God to be the focus and the heart of my life.

And we can question
What's right and what matters
The mind shifts and scatters.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Part of me really wants to say--ok---one day down:  one day of tracking calories---one day of no sugar excluding yogurt and fruit.  One day of getting up early and having a quiet time---and an extra cleaning time.  Isn't it funny how I'm tempted to just treat life as some huge countdown clock sometimes.  I do it all the time.  One day down, four days to go until Friday.  One class down---five more to go until the end of the day.  I'm not sure why I do this--I know it would be better to view time---wherever that time is spent---as opportunity---not something to wish away.

This morning I scrubbed the tub.  I hate scrubbing the tub.  Of all household tasks (including scrubbing a toilet)---scrubbing the tub for me remains the most reviled.  But---now it's shiny---it almost looks new again.  There's a simple thread of peace in a task such as that one----taking something grungy and scrubbing it till it shines.

Sorry---this blog is likely to be a little rambling for a bit, since it's being composed in the morning before coffee.

Today was Genesis 8---"But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.  And God made a wind blow over the earth, and waters subsided."  The waters subsided---that's the part sticking with me this morning----the part about God's mercy---the part where God remembers the man who was always wanting to walk with him.

Monday, January 6, 2014

“Is 'fat' really the worst thing a human being can be? Is 'fat' worse than 'vindictive', 'jealous', 'shallow', 'vain', 'boring' or 'cruel'? Not to me.”  ----J. K Rowling

I love this Rowling quote, so as I begin this new endeavor towards leaning more on God---and less on my crutch of choice (food)----I want to remind myself that this really isn't about being "not fat" anymore.  I've always felt fat---whether I was a size 12 or a size 22---so obviously my perspective is skewed in that regard anyhow---and in my case---my physical issues are more a reflection of what's going on internally anyhow.....

So, this is me---making a commitment to doing three things each morning before the rest of my family rises:  

Spending some time alone in God's word.

Cleaning up and beginning the process of purging this house out---I've been holding on to some stuff for far too long.  And once the day gets going, it's difficult to find the time/energy to sift through drawers and closets.

And spending a few minutes each day writing here, in this blog.  I feel like I am better at keeping commitments when I write and remind myself why I am making them.

This morning---I read from Genesis---I started at Genesis 6.  And so, wow.  That's kind of depressing, right.  When God says the earth is filled with violence and that he was sorry He made  I don't want to grieve God---and these days, it just seems like things I do too many things without consulting Him---I don't want to do that anymore.  I really want to live a life that is about building up God's kingdom---not just kind of---making it through.  I want to start walking with Him, intentionally.  So--these quiet times seem like a good place to start.  During Jesus' time on earth, He spent time alone, in fellowship with the Father.  And I think---if Jesus (God incarnate) needed that time alone in prayer and meditation---how much more so do I need that time alone.  And too often, I just don't take it.  I pray that as I spend time in God's word---that it will take root in my heart and grow in my life---so that I stop depending on other things to give me joy---or to make me less anxious.  This year is going to be less about a diet---and more about breaking down some idols in my life---and depending solely on God for strength and a life that is meaningful and driven by His will--and not mine.