Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"The Nook"

The Ladies Of The Lord (or L.O.L. as we affectionately call it) at my church are doing a book study on Good to Great in God's Eyes by Chip Ingram. I'm not sure I even heard of this man before reading his book, but he's so wise and insightful. It's hard not to pick up the book and devour every  ounce of wisdom he offers in it. The book is about 10 things great Christians do in their lives that help them achieve greatness and righteousness in God's eyes. The title pretty much speaks for itself, but the 10 things in this book are invaluable things that are so logical, yet so full of wisdom when you put think on them and then put them into action.

Each chapter has a theme like "Pursue Great People" or "Think Great Thoughts". What struck me is that even though I'm on chapter four, these themes meld together as you start applying them to your daily life. The chapter, "Read Great Books" went right along with the last chapter I read "Dream Great Dreams". God doesn't just give us desires and dreams to say "Well, you screwed that one up so better luck with the next dream!" He wants us to cultivate these dreams and seek them in His power and might. Not our own. That's one of the key parts of having a dream. Knowing it's in His hands. I'm getting a little carried away... 

Back to my point... These two chapters went together because I just started reading Onward by Howard Schultz, the chairman, president, and ceo of Starbucks. (Fun fact: they don't use upper case letters to distinguish the higher ups from the other employees within their company). At the end of "Dream Great Dreams" I was challenged to write down my own dreams. One I dreamed up not too long ago came to mind and clicks completely with Onward. I have this idea of a coffee house. Now it's not an ordinary one, but a place of solitude, peace, and serenity. A place to order a latte then curl up with a good book, write that letter you've always wanted to, or just sit still and be.

This place would be called "The Nook". There would be no electronics allowed in the doors - except cellphones on vibrate. I want an environment that allows total freedom from the things of the world. A place for people to escape the chaotic schedule of daily life and to slip into a place all their own. I wouldn't sell anything besides a few books, coffee, tea, and some snacks. Just a simple place for a simple purpose. That is my dream. It sounds somewhat impossible to have such a place of tranquility in today's society, but I believe it can be done. This is my dream.

What's yours? What are you desiring and have a passion for? Are you taking steps towards it? What's holding you back? Often times it's ourselves. Take a step in faith. You never know what you'll find along the way.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Of Mice and Little Ladies

This all started about a month ago when I was vacuuming the house. I decided to move the couch from the "L" - shaped wall so I could vacuum behind it. That's when I got my first clue.... dog food scattered all over. Probably a good 30 pieces or so. Well, knowing it was the first time that spot had been vacuumed in goodness knows how long - remember, my husband was a bachelor for 3 years with a dog - I picked up the pieces and thought Gunnar's food had been spilled over there.

Fast forward a week or two, I notice a piece of dog food on the basement stairs. I thought it was funny since Gunnar usually goes up and down the stairs with me, but not while he's eating. Oh well. Once again, I figured Gunnar had maybe kicked it (20 ft) away from his bowl and under the basement door.

Now, we're up to Saturday night. I'm getting annoyed with the light above my head having one working bulb instead of 3 so I decide to change that. As I'm pushing the couch out of the "L", I notice another 10 pieces of dog food. So I pause... and tell Jared, "I think we have a mouse". At this time my poor husband is working on his sermon and has no idea what I'm talking about, so he somewhat annoyed says, " ok". Me, "I really think it's a mouse. How else would Gunnar's food get on the OTHER side of the wall when that's not possible and we know he's too big to get under the couch." And once again, Jared - trying to be patient with me - looks at me and says "I don't know Leah." The things I put my husband through. well, I decided if he was too busy I'd gather evidence. I compared the "couch" dog food with fresh ones and noticed the "couch" ones were nibbled down. Not to mention the droppings around them, Gunnar's massive size keeping him from getting under the couch, and the "L" shaped wall blocking any food from "jumping" out of Gunnar's bowl. I had my answer.

 After picking up THOSE pieces, Jared was done and we discussed the issue. Even got to show off my detective skills! So the next morning, I was curious. Sure enough, another 5 pieces were under the couch. We have a visitor. Maybe even more than one. It's obviously not the mouse that drowned in our water pump 2 months ago. Maybe a close relative. All I know is, this isn't my first rodeo (my roommates from the Row house in college can attest to that) and we are getting mouse traps.Once again, country life is always keeping me on my toes! Not to mention the broken down tractor in our front lawn, and half uprooted tree trunk. Ha ha ha All I'm missing is my cowgirl boots! I am officially a country girl - and loving every minute of it.

Also, I wanted to wrap this blog up with a Happy Birthday to my baby sister Londyn Grace Whitney Smith!!
She's a whopping 5 years old today! I miss that girl. My little diva/drama queen sister.
I always wanted a little sister. Took me until I was 18 to get one, but I love her very much and am so glad God blessed our family by adding her to the bunch. What a sweetie pie!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yada This, Yada That

God has really been working on my heart in my prayer life since I've started reading the "Yada Yada Prayer Group" book series. I know it seems silly that a Christian Novel would be something God would speak through, but truely these books have inspired me to go beyond my normal comfort zone when it comes to prayer.

I remember back in May going to a women's breakfast at my old church and a friend of mine said she was starting a book study on "The Yada Yada Prayer Group" and it didn't stop there. She also addressed the importance of prayer and how the Lord had been working on her heart about that. I didn't understand the connection.

How can a novel really challenge your prayer life to become more intimate? Turns out, the small library in my po-dunk town has ALL of the "Yada Yada" books, so - out of curiosity  - I borrowed the first one. I admit, I wasn't too interested at first, but the faith these women show in their prayer lives and the way they pray makes you hunger for it in your own life. Yes, they're fictional characters, but the things they pray about are things that others around me or even I myself have experienced. It's an encouragement to read about a main character who struggles with her prayer life and learns to step out of her comfort zone to experience grace, freedom, joy, peace, mercy, and every gift the Father can give while maturing spiritually.

The issues raised are so real and genuine that I can't help but think of certain people in my life as I read these books. Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert at praying in the Psalms, having a "quiet time" every day, or praising the Lord the way these ladies do (which is with child-like abandon!)... but I want to try. And you know what? I think that's exactly what the Lord wants us to do...

"O taste and see
That the Lord is good
O taste and see
That the Lord is good to me

You've turned my mourning
Into dancing
Put off my rags and clothed me with gladness
And I will arise and I will praise you
I'll sing and not be silent

O Lord, My God
I will give thanks to you forever
O Lord, My God
I will give thanks to you

And I'll live only for you
And I'll lift these hands up to you
And I'll dance before you
I will shout it, I will shout it to you"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Open and Honest

Alright... it's time to pour my heart out... not completely open, but as much as I can.

I'm tired... I'm drained... some mornings, I just want to stay in bed. I even find myself on the verge of tears when I let myself process what has been going on in the past 2 weeks.We just announced to the church last Sunday, that my husband (the senior and only pastor) has gone from full time to part time which also includes a pay reduction. It not only grieves me what Jared and I are going through, but what this means for the church as well. My heart aches for Sand Ridge and the congregation there. I love them all to pieces! I've been all over with my emotions. Sad, angry, hurt, joyful, upset, frustrated, worried, concerned, thankful, etc. Really, any emotion you can name, I've been there!

That first Sunday the decision was made, Jared and I were somewhat in shock. Then as we processed God opened our eyes to what the possibilities could be for him, me, and above all, the church! This could be a great opportunity for SRCC to get back on their feet. We've had a lot happen, but one thing this church knows how to do right is Celebrate! I am determined to celebrate every thing I can in this time. Even in the pain, God is good. All the time.

It doesn't mean I won't have emotions to deal with or even struggle with the reality of where Jared and I are right now, but God is faithful and He is proving that to us as we keep our eyes open to it every day. We are conquerors in Christ Jesus. I bare this burden with great joy, just as Paul did. There is no despair in Him. Only hope. Hope for a better future - for Jared, for me, and for Sand Ridge.

p.s. I have an interview for part time work and will be applying for a full time position at another place soon. God really is opening doors so please join me in praying that I will follow His lead and that Jared will as well.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lifes Uncertainties

Nothing in this life is certain… boy is that the truth! Thankfully I can hold on to the hope that God is my provider and knows my needs even before I ask. Figuring out this new phase of my life has been fun, challenging, hard, and – at times – sad. It’s not easy coming from a family of 9 to a house in the woods with a man and a dog. Granted this isn’t just any man or dog I’m talking about, but no matter what, change is always difficult. It has its enjoyable moments as well, don’t get me wrong. I have learned to enjoy a nice peaceful home and find joy in “setting up house”. The other day, I was feeling down; like I wasn’t really providing much for the family and Jared told me that I keep the house in much better shape than he has or ever will be able to and that I’m great at what I do. Sounds silly, but it really helped boost my self-esteem and I don’t doubt that what I do is important even if it seems as simple as washing the dishes or scrubbing the toilet. It’s my part to give at this point so I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. 

Granted there are days where I just don’t want to do anything. It’s hard to fight laziness when your husband is off at work. Thankfully, mine gets to work from home every so often and it helps keep me motivated knowing he’s in the other room working too. As for when he isn’t home, I want to have something to show for what I did with my day. Sometimes it’s not “seeable” but I can tell him and take pride in that I am doing something with my life rather than moping and waiting for life to “happen to me”. Marriage doesn’t allow for pity parties. Sure, you can squeeze one in, but that usually means it’s squeezing your spouse out. The last thing I want to do is push Jared away. I need him to encourage me as I apply for jobs, stand beside me, love me, and (especially) to remind me of God’s promises. 

We have been around each other a lot lately, but it’s been good. I saw him in the Word the other day and made sure to make some time for that myself. Last week I started working out (finally stopped just complaining about marital weight gain and did something about it) and Jared decided he was going to start getting back into shape with me. I love the challenges we silently throw at one another. They’re not intended, so don’t think I’m saying “your husband isn’t reading the Bible?! Well take yours out and he’ll magically start to read too!” Your heart and mind have to be in the right place. But these “silent challenges” have been good and are making us better people and a stronger couple. I hope this post isn’t too all over the place… just felt like sharing what’s been on my heart lately.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Feels Like Home

I have now been married a little over 6 weeks and my back two rooms are still full of stuff. I don't say this to blame my husband or myself... it's just how things are right now. I'm sure we can all identify with one room or another that has held "stuff". Well, being a newlywed wife and being on the hunt for jobs, I also tend to the house and try my best to get those rooms to be what they should be - a guest bedroom and an office. Last night, my husband wrote his own "Honey-Do" List and got it all done - while he felt sick! If that doesn't show me how much he loves me, I don't know what else would.

While I'm so delighted he did that for me, I sadly realized the ball is back in my court. Now it's my things that are occupying the space. Funny how that works huh? Even with the size of our Double-wide, there still isn't adequate storage space; like bookshelves. Those would be wonderful! Jared and I are both avid readers and have talked about getting a Kindle for his Pastoral Care books (since he has a million of them). As for me, I like the old school feel of a book in my hands. I'd rather look at paper than a computer screen... kinda funny since I have a blog and not a journal huh? Anyway... back to the point.

Once Jared moved "his things" out of the room, I could see mine more clearly. Thing is, I didn't want to see mine. I wanted mine to be taken care of too! I guess I thought Jared would magically take care of that too. Ha! Fat chance. He worked hard to move those things around and find places for them. My turn! Thankfully, I was able to become a little more creative and found a place for some of it in my kitchen

Such a small feat, but hey I got rid of a box and a bag so baby steps are working!(I also did get some other things placed) And I'm realizing the more I get things "in place" the more I do feel at home. I've been calling this house my home, but to really "feel at home" requires your own style added to the mix. I'm hoping our home will be ready for guests by August and maybe even do an "open house" for our church and friends :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crash Course

This being my first blog, please bear with me as I learn to be more eloquent with my postings of which I'm sure this one will probably be lacking. Actually, if anything, this post is all about "crash courses" and "new beginnings". I am a newlywed. Happily married to my best friend Jared after 3 1/2 years of dating. In June, I happily moved out to Central Illinois to help my husband at the church he pastor's and jump into a new way of life with him and our Golden Retriever, Gunnar.

I am not sure entirely what these blogs will be about, but that's the freedom in writing one isn't it? The freedom of expression. I do have desires for this blog. I desire that it will encourage and uplift. That it will be full of trials and triumphs. That it will be a place for me to share what God is doing in my life. And that at times, it will be challenging to not only type, but for you to read (and hopefully apply) as well.

Being married for 1 1/2 months in no way makes me an expert, but in one way I am getting a deeper understanding of what it is to love someone and to choose to love them everyday. The daily routine of life becomes one that can dull the marriage or it can be used to sharpen it. Jared and I have been reading devotions from " Devotions for a Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas. This particular version is a weekly one, but we try to read it daily. I would recommend this book to any married couple. It is full of challenges to see beyond your spouse's sins or shortcomings and to see them, cherish them, love them as God does. Having been married for a short time, I am not excluded from these things. I have already apologized to Jared numerous times for snapping at him, speaking unlovingly, sounding disrespectful, and even for actions I failed to do. These things happen, but I keep reminding myself that just because it happens, doesn't make it okay. I need to keep going back and asking forgiveness, just like I do with God when I sin against Him. I make it right again. I wish I could say I always get it right, but then that would make me like Jesus - perfect - which is definitely not true (or scriptural).

My challenge to you would be... how am I loving my spouse? Do I admit when I do something disrespectful/unloving or do I let it slide by unless my husband/wife brings it up?

I can guarantee, the sooner you start taking note of your shortcomings and acknowledge them to your spouse, they will notice and (in time) show their appreciation for it.