Monday, August 23, 2010

1000 Gifts

And I come to another week of cataloging one thousand gifts for which I am incredibly grateful!  I love how this little project makes me look at almost every event/scenario in my life so differently.  This week, my heart is overflowing with gratitude to the Lord.  I could list and list and list all of the amazing blessings all around me.

holy experience

11.  How warm and cozy our apartment is at night.
12.  Leftover Eudici's pizza from my hometown
13.  The thrill of watching the first soccer game of the season under the lights
14.  Watching parents love on their kids
15.  A child's giggle
16.  My husband's calmness, steadiness and incredibly strong leadership as he coaches teenage boys
17.  My brother's hugs, especially after too long has passed since we last saw each other
18.  The Word of God and how it nourishes me first thing, far better than the most hearty breakfast
19.  My new Precepts study that just arrived in the mail
20.  My new purse
21.  A full fridge
22.  A freshly made bed
23.  The amazing privilege of prayer
24.  A full agenda for tomorrow
25.  Good health and energy

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook 8/17/10

It's been a long week.  My brain is mush, yet I can't sleep.  I have a million and one different blog post ideas, yet can't bring myself to complete any of them.  So, I'm employing The Simple Woman's Daybook tonight. 

Outside my window...
it's dark and the cicadas are singing.

I am thinking...
of all of the things I need to get done tomorrow before we leave for Auburn Hills.

I am thankful for...
the warmth radiating from my husband as he lays on the opposite end of the couch from me.

From the kitchen...
I didn't cook tonight.  I had a bunch of errands to run and the only time I had for those errands was between 4:30 and 8:30 tonight.  Ciaran grilled burgers and I grabbed fast food.

I am wearing...
my favorite turquoise pajamas.

I am creating...
a new work wardrobe for this upcoming school year and incorporating more skirts and dresses.

I am going...
to the Auburn Hills area tomorrow for my sister-in-law's Michigan wedding reception!

I am reading...
Beowulf and a book on small groups by C.J. Mahaney.

I am hoping...
to be able to make it up to my hometown on Sunday to visit my brother for a few hours (he's in from California for the weekend). 

I am hearing...
Ciaran shifting in his sleep.

Around the house...
I need to do a number of "Room Rescues" ala FlyLady and get caught up on laundry.

One of my favorite things...
is the few weeks before the start of a new school year.  I have my new teaching schedule, I'm reorganzing my classroom, prepping course maps and unit plans, reviewing state standards/benchmarks and national standards and cross-referencing assessments to those standards, assisting Ciaran as he starts the soccer season, racing to finish up projects around home and so much more.  I love this time of year and getting back onto my 5am to 9pm schedule.  It feels good.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Tomorrow I need to wrap up some projects here and then head across the state to the above-mentioned wedding reception that is sure to be a TON of fun!!!  Sunday, (as I've also already stated) I'm hoping to make it up to see my brother before he heads back to California.  Then Monday, it's back to the grind and Monday night we have Ciaran's first soccer game as varsity coach for his school.  It's an away game so I'm going to have to make a 50 minute drive to see it, but it will be worth it!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
N/A (I'm using my work laptop and I don't have any pictures saved on here.  Our laptop's powercord broke so we haven't been able to use it for almost a week now.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Thousand Gifts-The Start

A dear woman at my church shared with me last night the name of a blog she follows.    When I got home from church yesterday evening, I immediately checked it out.  And now I'm completely captivated by it.  One of the many things that captured my interest in this blog is her gratitude journal.  This blogger takes the time to record many of the blessings and graces that the Lord pours out on her throughout her day.  I love this idea, so I'm going to join the Gratitude Community as well!  Especially since I just spent all day learning how to use Data Director and Data 4SS at my local ISD in preparation for the new school year.  I desperately need to stop and consider all of the beautiful love letters and whispers of God's grace all around me because right now, student data is all that is richocheting around in my mind. 

holy experience

Ahhh, after just a few minutes in prayer, I love how God opens my eyes to all of the beauty and gifts around me.  I am so thankful for...

1.  The sunlight streaming through the blinds in front of me.
2.  The cloudless, blue sky.
3.  Quiznos Turkey, Ranch and Swiss sub after a long day
4.  Tossed salad sitting on my counter for 21 soccer players
5.  Boiled chocolate frosting

6.  God's grace
7.  The Bible
8.  Sweet fellowship at RBC yesterday
9.  Laughing and chatting and snuggling with Ciaran until late in the night as we debriefed from our busy week
10.  A husband who leads me spiritually and makes our devotional/prayer life as a couple a priority even in the midst of his hectic schedule.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Journey with the Lord: My First Church

Once I became a Christian, my friend explained to me the concept of church (why we go to church as well as emphasizing the importance of fellowship with other believers).  He invited me to come and visit his church, but I decided to attend the church my mom had been attending for the previous six months or so.

Even now, as I just paused for a moment remembering my first church experience as a believer, I can't help but smile.  I remember the smell and the color of the pews and the wonder of looking around me and watching other believers worship God together.  My very few previous experiences with "church" had made me feel like it was a formalized, dry routine that people had to go through to just "put in" their time to soothe their consciences or boost their self-esteem.  Church as a believer was a much, much different experience.

First, I remember the experience of singing praises to God and the wonder of listening to all of these voices around me wholeheartedly worshiping God together.  I remember turning and looking at a teenager standing on the other side of the aisle from me.  Her eyes were closed and she seemed to be singing directly to God.  I then focused in on an elderly couple in front of me.  Their heads were bowed as they sang, incredibly reverently.  This was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

And then the pastor approached the pulpit and began to pray and then preach.  I furtively glanced across the aisle at the teenage girl who had previously seemed so intimately connected to God.  She had an open notebook in her lap and was scribbling away as the pastor preached and I couldn't help but notice her Bible was all marked up with notes and underlined verses.  This all seemed so intriguing to me as a brand new believer.   I couldn't be intrigued for very long though because God pulled me to attention as the pastor continued to preach.  He was referencing chapters and verses in the Bible and the people around me were quickly flipping to the appropriate page.  Panic set in.  I had no idea where these chapters and verses were in the Bible.  I didn't know what books were in the Old Testament or the New Testament.  The prideful, little perfectionist in me reared her ugly head and I found myself embarrassed at my lack of knowledge.  Thankfully, just as my face started to flush pink, the pastor gently mentioned that if anyone was new to reading the Bible, the passage could be found on page ---.  Relief washed over me as I quickly flipped to the appropriate page. 

The preaching itself was another amazing, new experience for me.  The pastor took us through a select passage of Scripture, reading it and then explaining what was going on giving context to the reading.  He then ended with instructions on ways to apply what we had learned to our lives.  I gobbled this up, desperate to know more and more about this God who had chosen me and drawn me into a relationship with Him.  I was so grateful to be His child and I wanted to know more and more.

As the year progressed on and I continued going to church Sunday after Sunday, I started to become friends with other Christian girls.  By the spring of my junior year of high school, I joined a small group of girls and we met every Sunday evening to pray, study the Bible together, hold each other accountable and be mentored by a young mother in our church who graciously gave up her time to disciple us.   God used this small group to take my relationship with Him to a whole new level.  I greatly admired the young mother who led our small group and I watched her very closely, trying to emulate her relationship with the Lord. 

Through this small group, I became very close friends with another girl my age.  She was so passionate for the Lord and we spurred one another on to a deeper walk with the Lord all that summer between our junior and senior year of high school.

It was also during this year that the Lord began to give me a passion for missions.  I was so excited about this new relationship with Jesus that I wanted to share Him with everyone.  Although I scaled back and wasn't as pushy about my faith as I was in those first few months as a believer, my heart still would beat faster every time a missionary would come to our church and speak.  I found books that fed this passion during that first year as a believer.  Books like Shadow of the Almighty were incredibly instrumental in introducing me to the world of missionaries.  Also, my friend who had led me to Christ had many extended family members who were missionaries (his great-grandfather was martyred in Bolivia). And then, most importantly, my church continued to display a strong commitment to seeing the gospel spread which obviously had the biggest effect on me as we prayed Sunday after Sunday for specific missionaries and heard about their work.

As I grew in my faith in this first year as a believer, I looked forward to my time at church.  I couldn't wait to get there on Sunday mornings and to learn and grow and fellowship with people who shared a genuine relationship with the Lord.  It was so new and so amazing!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Journey with the Lord: Salvation Story

So I last left you with my friend explaining to me about his relationship with the Lord and how his identity was found only in his Savior, Jesus Christ.   I wish I could say I remember vividly every single detail of this conversation...but I don't.  I vaguely remember my curiosity at the direction the conversation had taken (after all, I knew he was a Christian...and he knew I wasn't a Christian....why were we talking about this now, after all the time we had known each other?!)

That night we ended up at our local Barnes and Noble with open Bibles before us.  The first verse that stood out to me was in the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  I latched onto this verse as the phrase "poor in spirit" echoed over and over in my head.  That night, God began to reveal to me my poverty of spirit.  One simple verse, that's all it took for the Holy Spirit to convict me.  All I could see as my friend read that verse out loud to me, and other verses throughout the Bible, was that all of my strivings truly were in vain, that no matter how brilliant I would try to be in theater, in academia, or how nice I was...all of that couldn't get me to heaven.    My poor friend tried to ask me questions about the passages we were reading and I know I must have responded a bit inanely...I couldn't help it, only that first part of Matthew 5:3 was churning in my mind. 

Thankfully, my friend pressed on and drew me back.  He walked me through the Scriptures, pointing out to me various passages, explaining what sin is and how the wages of sin is death.    The enormity and weight of my sin was truly palpable and I longed so desperately for this heavenly Father’s love and acceptance as He opened my eyes to the  truth of His Word.  Then my friend took me to passages that were like a refreshing drink of cool water as I waded through the desert that was my sin.  Romans 6:23 stood out to me, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  And then, as my sin seemed so overwhelming and yet I knew intellectually that I was being offered a gift, I was turned to 2 Corinthians "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."   I knew I wanted heaven.  I knew I didn’t want to live with this newly discovered awful weight.  I was tired.  Tired of trying so hard. Tired of being so angry. Tired of wanting something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I wanted to be clothed in Christ's righteousness and be able to access this amazing God who offered such amazing freedom to me!  So that night, after my friend walked me through Romans 10:9-10, which says,
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
I knelt in Barnes and Noble parking lot and confessed that I was truly a sinner and in desperate need of a Savior.

Praying for the first time, I remember actually being nervous.  Not because of my company, or the fact that I was in a parking lot (please note: by parking lot, I mean a grassy area at the end of the parking lot) with cars whizzing by me, but because I had no idea what to say to this God I was just being introduced to.  Luckily my friend, college boy that he was, actually was sensitive to my discomfort and prayed with me which made it a bit easier.   

It wasn't until I was finally in my car, alone with the Lord, that I think everything finally clicked.  As I drove the 20 minutes back to my house, in the quietness of that drive, I confessed my sins to the Lord out loud as He brought them to mind.  I told God that I wanted to belong to Him, that I felt like I belonged to Him and that I wanted to know Him more.   I thanked Him for sending Jesus to die in my place for the penalty of my sins.  I thanked Him even more that because of Jesus' death and resurrection, I could now stand in His presence clothed in Christ's righteousness!  In my excitement, it was a bit difficult to fall asleep that night!

The next day once I finished fourth hour (it was the first week of school), I raced out to my car and practically flew the 25 minutes to the theater where I had an internship all that junior year of high school.  I scarfed down my sandwich and couldn't wait to read my Bible.  I'd had a Bible for about six months (since about the time my mom had started going to church), but it didn't make sense when I read it, so I had barely used it.  When I opened it up that day, I felt so excited.  I immediately turned to where my friend and I had left off in Matthew 5 and dug in.   

In the weeks that followed, I gobbled up Scripture as God continued to open up my eyes to the truth and beauty of His Word.  He revealed to me more and more of His character and what He has done for me and what He continues to do.  In those weeks that followed, God ultimately showed me what my heart had always been longing for:  Him.   I couldn't believe how supremely satisfying a relationship with God could be.  In my excitement and zeal, I started sharing with everyone and anyone I could.  One of the guys that had a locker near me at school, starting teasing me and everytime he'd see me, he's laughingly call out, "Save me Je-bas, save me" quoting a line Homer Simpson says in the TV show The Simpsons.  

As the year progressed on, I toned down in my overzealous sharing, but not in my relationship with the Lord.  I couldn't wait to get to church every Sunday and I treasured my daily Bible reading in the quiet greenroom during lunch at the theater.  I loved being a child of God and I couldn't wait to see where God was going to take me throughout the rest of my life as I walked with Him. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Journey with the Lord: Pre-Christian Story (Part 2)

The defining moment in my pre-Christian story took place in 1997.   It was at this point and time, when I was fourteen years old, that my mom and dad decided to separate. Although I was by no means shocked when they told my brother and myself, I still was at an incredibly awkward and rebellious age, so I didn't cope the best with this break-up of our family.  To say I was one angry, little teenager is a vast understatement.  My desperate quest for comfort began in earnest after my dad moved out and things with my family became very messy.  I was fourteen years old:   awkward, rebellious, and desperately searching for an identity and comfort anywhere I could find it.    I'm sure you can imagine where this is heading...
  Actually, here is where I can see the first, very evident, intervention by the Lord.  At this point in my life, at fourteen years old, incredibly rebellious, desperately looking for comfort...things could have gotten pretty ugly, pretty quickly.  But they didn't.  I was a freshman in high school and the first new friends I made were at band camp and they were upperclassman and all very positive, kind, and even a bit motherly toward me.  Every time I got down and depressed, they were there lifting me back up.  They didn't feed my sour moods, but instead, helped me to stay positive.  I also became friends with my drum major who, conveniently turned out to be a Christian.

I loved the arts, and quickly found my niche transferring from music to the world of theater, and once again, found myself surrounded by Christians.  My first real boyfriend was a devoted Christian and a number of the people I interacted with on a regular basis (including his family and best friend) were devoted Christians as well.  But I still didn't know the Lord.  And as a result I sought my comfort and identity in the world of the theatre and treasured the escapism it provided.  If I wasn't at school, I could be found at our local community theatre.  I reveled in that world and thought that nothing mattered more than it.  I continued to look for comfort not only in the theatre, but in the relationships that world provided as well.

One night, after a particularly grueling rehearsal, I came out of the theatre with a friend of mine (read: my former, first real boyfriend).  We started talking about the stress of the night, my frustrations with my lack of perfection in theatre, with academics, etc.  I began ruminating on the futility of it all and philosophizing on whether or not this truly all mattered in the long run.   In my mind, I was just venting to a dear friend of mine, but the Lord had a different plan for this night.

After patiently listening to me, my friend began talking about his relationship with the Lord and how his identity and perfection itself was found in only one place, and that place was in his Savior, Jesus Christ.  I vaguely remember my curiousity at the direction the conversation had taken, and the earnestness with which he shared these thoughts...

To Be Continued

Monday, August 09, 2010

My Journey with the Lord: Pre-Christian Story (Part 1)

A week ago, Ciaran and I were back in our hometowns visiting family.  When Sunday morning rolled around, since we were staying with Ciaran's parents, we didn't feel like making the forty minute drive to my home church.  So we decided to visit the church that I attended when I first became a Christian (since it's about 1 minute from my in-laws' house).  It wasn't that monumental of a decision...actually it was made spur of the moment without much thought....yet that one visit did more to revitalize my affections for the Lord than anything so far this summer.  From the moment I walked in and took a seat in one of the pews, I felt like a brand new believer again.  I remembered how I treasured the stillness of the sanctuary, how close I felt to the Lord as I would open a Bible and read and learn things I had never known before.  How exciting my walk with the Lord was back then when it was all new!  As I've reflected on those feelings, the thought struck me that it might be fun to share my testimony over the next few weeks and where the Lord has led me as a believer so far.  As I combed through the archives of this blog I realized I've never actually shared my testimony in full.  And since  I'm quickly approaching my 11-year spiritual birthday, I thought this would be a fun way to round out the summer. 

Also, Ciaran and I are becoming members of the church we've been attending for the last 16 months at the end of August and part of the membership service includes sharing our testimonies with the congregation.  The testimony I'm going to share with the church is greatly condensed, as in 1/14 of what I will share here (basically just my salvation story), which makes this little blog project even more meaningful to me.  Reflecting on where the Lord has brought me so far always draws me closer to Him and reminds me of His faithfulness.

So without further ado, let's start with my pre-Christian story:

During my childhood, I considered myself to have been (for the most part) un-churched. My mother was raised Methodist and my father was raised Presbyterian.  I remember a short space of time when I was in early elementary school when we attended a Presbyterian church and then another short spell when we attended the Methodist church in my later elementary school years.  I also attended the Methodist church a few extra times throughout my childhood with my grandparents, but it was more out of adoration/devotion to them that I attended, rather than a desire to know God and worship Him.   

Even though I was for the most part, un-churched...I can see evidences of God introducing Himself to me and drawing me to Him all throughout my childhood.  I loved going to the community summer VBS (Vacation Bible School) that was offered in my hometown.  Four of the local churches would get together every summer and put this summer program on, but sadly, I only loved it for the opportunity it provided to catch up with a bunch of my classmates and sing songs and play fun games.  

I also had a number of children's Bibles and I remember playing "Sunday School" with my grandmother during the summer months.  My grandmother would read to me a Bible story and plan a craft project for me to do that went along with the Bible story in between working out in the garden or somewhere else around the farm.  I remember specifically thinking of the Bible as just a collection of "stories" and that the "stories" were meant to provide a moral lesson, much like the fables and short stories I would read in the books I got from the library.

Although, the two above-mentioned remembrances from my childhood hardly testify to knowing God personally and believing in His infallible Word, I do believe these few introductions to the Christian faith were the little seeds that were sown in my heart to introduce me to the God I now worship and adore today.

The defining moment in my pre-Christian story took place in 1997.   It was at this point and time, when I was fourteen years old, that my mom and dad decided to separate. Although I was by no means shocked when they told my brother and myself, I still was at an incredibly awkward and rebellious age, so I didn't cope the best with this break-up of our family.  To say I was one angry, little teenager is a vast understatement.  My desperate quest for comfort began in earnest after my dad moved out and things with my family became very messy.  I was fourteen years old:   awkward, rebellious, and desperately searching for an identity and comfort anywhere I could find it.    I'm sure you can imagine where this is heading...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Frugal Friday-Price Book

In my ongoing quest to shave pennies from our grocery budget, I've started keeping a price book.  As I'm grocery shopping, I tend to believe sale markers.  If the sign says the item is 50% off, I'm inclined to buy it.  That was until I started using my price book.  A price book is a simple document where you track the prices on specific items over a set amount of time.  My goal is to track prices over the course of 12 weeks.  When I first started this, I used an Excel spreadsheet, but it got way too confusing.  Just this week, I've transferred over to Money Saving Mom's price book and I'm loving it! She has multiple formats to choose from, but I've settled on this one.

A number of people advised me to start with just 20 items and track those and then move up from there.  I'm actually tracking around 40 items right now, but that's because I'm on summer vacation and have that extra time. Once the school year starts, I'll probably just choose 15-20 to track and then move on to the rest later on.

One of the biggest benefits of the price book so far is that I've discovered that sale markers are not always truthful. A number of places actually mark up the price before putting it "on sale."  I'm definitely liking my price book!  Now I'm learning when something is at a truly "rock bottom" price and I can stock up then.  It's pretty sweet. 

Happy Friday everyone!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Completing Him Challenge - Showing Respect

All right, it's my second week of the "Completing Him Challenge" that Courtney has going over at Women Living Well.  This week's mission is as follows:
R-E-S-P-E-C-T! No complaining, criticizing, rolling your eyes, nagging, or giving him any friction this week. Enjoy a week of peace in your home!
 I started this challenge last Wednesday, praying that God would reveal to me where I have been creating friction in our marriage, where I have been showing any disrespect to Ciaran, whether it be in my words, action, tone of voice or something else.

I adore my husband.  That's no big secret.  So this challenge was a bit frightening to me as I considered that although I adore my husband, my minute-by-minute actions could be conveying an entirely different message to him.

The first thing I discovered in this challenge is that I roll my eyes or arch my eyebrows a lot when he's goofy.  Ciaran has an awesome sense of humor, and although I LOVE to laugh, I sometimes can be a bit too task-oriented and serious and instead of enjoying and delighting in his goofiness...I turn into the eyebrow arching, eye-rolling wife.  What does this convey to Ciaran?!  There's a bit of a superiority message passed on there.  An almost parent-child superiority which is completely unacceptable from a wife who claims to treasure and respect her husband.  I felt really convicted about this once God revealed this to me.

As I prayed for God to help me change in this area, I began to think about the repercussions if I didn't change.  Ciaran and I would love to have children if and when the Lord blesses us with that gift, and so I paused and considered what could happen in our little children's hearts if they saw their mother consistently rolling her eyes or arching her eyebrows at their wonderful father.  Could they learn that from me in the future and treat their father with actions that could be interpreted as perceived superiority or disdain?  What a scary thought!   Especially when those feelings couldn't be further from what I really feel toward Ciaran.  I love his sense of humor and goofiness and how after a long, stressful day, it's nice to unwind and not have to be so serious!  I love how Ciaran balances me out in this area!

So, after praying for God to change my heart, I went and apologized to Ciaran. He laughed and said he doesn't notice it if I'm doing it, but I'm almost certain he does.  He's just an incredibly nice guy and doesn't get upset about much.  But that still doesn't mean I'm off the hook.  I now am aware of my actions and by God's grace, I'm starting to change.

So that was my big take-away from this week's challenge and I really feel these challenges are helping me grow and making me realize more and more how much I love this man of mine!