Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm Ridiculous

1. All day at work I could not stop singing "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child.  Seriously.

2. Last night, Sam was working late and I was laying on the couch watching Hulu.  Morty came up and laid on me, so then when I was bored with Hulu I didn't want to get up from the couch.  So I sat taking pictures of myself on my phone, trying to see how ugly and weird I could make myself look.  I was laughing hysterically.  Apparently I find myself very funny when I'm sleep deprived and bored.  Also, sorry for sending you those horrendous pictures, Sam, James, Monica, and Hollie.

3. I took one of our vehicles in to get the brakes checked today.  When the guy at the counter asked what the make and model of the car was...I did not know.  Luckily I could see the car from inside and noticed that the back said Escape, so I deduced that I drive a Ford Escape.  No, I apparently never pay attention to the make of the vehicle I've been driving for the past month or two.  Guess I'm not as observant as I thought I was.

4. I thought I'd post some pictures from my phone of what I've been up to lately.  And all I could find were pictures of my cats.  Yep.  That's all I've been up to lately, is hanging out with the cats.  Also, sometimes I worry that if I ever have babies the cats won't get enough attention and will resent me.  And I'm sure someday I'll regret admitting that. 

Yes.  I'm ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Prayer

A few years ago, I heard Becky Tirabassi speak at my old church.  Years earlier, my mom had given me a few books written by Becky, so when I found out she was speaking (and that we attended the same church!) I was thrilled.  That night, Becky spoke about how she had committed to spending an hour with God daily in prayer and reading the Bible.  I was very inspired by her talk, and committed to spending an hour with God every day for the next year, which I did.  During that hour, I read one Psalm, the Proverb for that day (since there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, it works out nicely to read through Proverbs in a month) and a chapter or two of whatever other book I was going through in the Bible.  I also prayed for family and friends, memorized verses, learned new worship songs on the guitar, and journaled some prayers to God. 

I admit that I haven't kept that daily hour as strict as I should have since that year, though I do my best to still do my praying and Bible-reading every day.  That year changed my life in a huge way, and I can feel the difference when I miss a single day of not making time for God.  Sometimes I feel hurried, and sometimes I think other things are more important and it would stress me out to sit still for a whole hour and read and pray.  But every time I make the time, it is worth it.  The Message version phrases Psalm 9:9-10 as, "God's a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times.  The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry you knocked."  It reminds me of when I don't feel like working out, if I'm tired or have too many things going on.  Once I force myself to work out, I'm always glad I did, and at the end of a run I never regret it because I always feel better.  Sometimes it's hard to discipline myself to do what I know is good for me, but the moment I do it, I am so glad I did.  The minute I sit down with my Bible, knitting, and tea (or coffee), I feel an incredible peace, and I'm so glad I knocked at God's door.

Over the years I have learned it becomes easier to pray once I have a specific plan or schedule of who and what I'm praying for.  It might not work for everyone, but organization really helps me.  First I learned that if I try to sit down and pray for everyone in my life, for everything in their lives, I quickly become overwhelmed and it could literally take all day.  So I set up a schedule.  There are certain key people in my life that get prayed for every single day.  My husband (obviously), my parents, my sister and her fiance, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife, my nieces and nephews, and my grandmother.  I started this schedule when I was about twenty, so I've maintained it and simply added in Sam and the kiddos and Sean, Joni's fiance.  :)  There are also instances when I add in others to pray for every day - for example, if someone is going through a life-threatening situation or something else that I feel is equally important.

I adapted a plan from some cards my uncle had that described how one should pray for their pastor and developed a daily schedule for what I'm going to pray for in those core people's lives.  It looks something like this:
  • Monday - Pray for their job - that they would do their best and glorify God with their work, to find a job, to show God's love to those they encounter in their job, depending on the situation
  • Tuesday - Pray for wisdom, discernment, guidance, and motivations in their life
  • Wednesday - Pray for physical health - that they would take good care of themselves and that God would protect them from sickness and disease
  • Thursday - Pray for protection from evil, those who might harm them, and temptation
  • Friday - Pray for financial blessings, for God to provide for them and for them to be wise with God's provision
  • Saturday - Pray for their marriages (or upcoming marriages), for them to be good husbands and wives, and to be good mothers and fathers, if applicable
  • Sunday - Pray for their relationship with God - that it would be strengthened and that they would walk with God, and that if they aren't walking with God, that God would draw them to Himself
I also generally pray for the same things for myself on those days.  Yes, I pray for myself every day.  Maybe it's selfish, but I happen to think I had better be praying for myself.  It's like how you have to take care of yourself first if an airplane is going down; how much can I really bless others if I'm not asking God for help?

Then I developed another list of people in my life who I want to pray for.  This list includes friends, family, and often people I work with.  The list has changed over the years as different people have come in and out of my life, or as I've changed jobs.  I divide this list up by seven so that everyone gets prayed for at least once a week, and it usually rounds out to between 6-8 people per day.  When I pray for this group, I pray for anything and everything I can in their lives.  It helps if I know a specific need, but if I don't I simply trust that Jesus knows what they need prayer for, and that He'll take whatever I say and make it what it needs to be.

I also learned that it helps if I break up the prayers with reading or memorizing verses.  It's hard to sit and pray for a long period of time, and I've found that prayers become less focused and more generic the longer I pray.  So I'll usually pray for a few people, then read a chapter in the Bible, then pray for a few more.  Also, I found that my commute to work is a great time for prayer, or when I'm doing the dishes, or working out, or any other task that doesn't require much thinking.  Often I'll start my praying in the morning, and do little five-minute prayers throughout the day as the opportunities arise.  Some mornings I do it all at once, but not always.

I just wanted to share this schedule with anyone who might be interested.  It has been helpful to me, so I thought I would pass it along.  I think praying is one of the most important things a person can do, and whenever I don't feel like praying, I wonder if there's someone else praying for me.  I hope there is.  I want to encourage you to think of people in your life who you could pray for.  What if you're the only person who prays for them?  Isn't it worth it?

If you have your own tips or ideas of what has worked for you, I would love to hear them!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Wonderfulness of Today

These are some simple things that made me happy today:

1. Sleeping until 8am.  The last couple weeks have been lots of 4am wake-up calls, so it was glorious to sleep longer than the sun.

2. Having this guy cuddle up on my lap.


3. Seeing this girl jealous of the kitty on my lap.



4. When my Pandora account played The Circle of Life from the Lion King, followed by The Phantom of the Opera, followed by On My Own from Les Mis.  (My Pandora station is "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" so there is a lot of Broadway.  And no, it's not lame, it's actually super cool.)

5. Catching up with Tiffany and learning she's having another girl (yay!)

6. Finding inexpensive gluten-free macaroni & cheese, and then eating it.

7. Finding inexpensive gluten-free oats, and knowing I get to eat oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow (score!)

8. Finding a very simple recipe for barbeque chicken and enjoying the aroma all afternoon as it slow-cooks.

9. Knowing that the husband gets off early tonight so we'll actually get to have dinner together!  This is a rarity, so I'm enjoying it.

And it's only 5:30.  Plenty of time for a lot more moments of bliss.  Thanking God for the little blessings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spending

Sam and I have been trying to be good with budgeting lately, and I've been devouring some Dave Ramsey books in hopes of making the most of our money.  In honor of that, I thought I'd share my favorite "saving money" clip.  I couldn't find a good clip of it on youtube so you have to actually click on the link.  Enjoy.

Saturday Night Live - Don't Buy Stuff - Video - http://www.nbc.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Me Online

I have to admit, part of the reason I deleted my facebook account is because of how often I compared myself to my facebook friends.  I wish I was one of those women who never thought to compare, but alas, I am not.  I have to work hard not to measure myself up against others, to see if I'm successful enough, or funny enough, or content enough.  And rather than being happy for others and their good news, I find myself resentful if my life doesn't seem as great.

Recently I was looking back over my old blog posts and I realized something funny; at times my own blog makes my life appear more fun and exciting than it actually is.  Posts about trips to visit friends, or family vacations, or the one night a month I make something good for dinner would make the reader who doesn't know me personally (or who doesn't know me very well) think my life is exciting, or that I'm organized, or that I get to go on lots of cool trips.  This is partially true, but I also clean out the litter box every day, and I got a ticket for turning into the wrong lane (stupid Oregon laws), and sometimes I feel very anti-social and hide out like a hermit and watch The Office on Hulu all day.  I assume that if I'm going to talk at all about my life, it should just be the highlights; in so doing, I create a very skewed picture of what my life actually looks like.

Moral of the story?  Don't compare yourself to someone's online persona.  You can't get the true picture from a blog (mine included), or facebook status updates, or tweets, or what have you.  Sometimes people look like they have it all together online, but even those folks eat way too much candy corn and fight with their husbands and leave dishes in the sink overnight and order takeout when they've had a long day and fall asleep while reading their Bible.  And sometimes those things are posted, but at other times we just see when she went to the gym at 6am and her husband bought her flowers and she made a full meal from scratch and she's super holy and connected with God.  (And yes, I'm speaking from personal experience about the candy corn and messy house in the aforementioned list.)

I realized I often assume the online person is the equivalent of the real person, and I end up feeling bad about myself for not being as great or not having as fun or easy of a life.  When I read my own blog and saw that my online person is way better than my real, flawed person, I learned a good lesson.  It's useless to compare myself online, because I'm comparing myself to whatever version that person is allowing me to see.

I think that's why I love seeing truth, and why I value blogs and tweets and updates that are honest and real.  I like when a woman admits she burned dinner, and I'm sure if I ever have kids I'll appreciate the moms who admit they can't get their baby to stop crying.  The truth is, the "perfection" we pretend exists doesn't help anyone.  If you're a Bible-reader, you will notice that all the people God uses are far from perfect - liars, adulterers, prostitutes, and the like.  The real people, the ones who struggle and are forced to rely on God because they admit they aren't perfect and can't do it alone - those are the ones who help me when I need encouragement.

Forgive me for ever presenting myself as something that I'm not.  I hate the idea that I could be promoting such a silly ideal.  If I ever brag about anything, it should simply be that God is good and loves someone as awful and messed up and crazy as me. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Resting

My life has been full of the necessities lately - the working (eleven days straight, today is my first day off!), the cleaning, the laundry, the taking care of a sick husband, the planning of upcoming events.  I think it's good for me to have these phases when I'm just "doing" but I know the real me much prefers the "being".  If I could, I'd read and write and play my guitar and catch up with friends and family all the time, rather than invest so much time in those blah daily chores.

I am certainly not a disciplined, organized, Type A person at heart - I work hard to try to be those things.  Staying on top of the tasks every normal adult has to do actually feels quite overwhelming to me at times.  I sort of miss being in school and being forced to read and write consistently.  I can discipline myself when I need to, but unfortunately my real passions get pushed aside when life's busyness takes over.  I can make myself clean a bathroom, but I find it harder to justify taking the time to read a book or play a song.

But aren't those things necessities, too?  I think for me to be fully healthy, there are a few things I need.  I need to be creative in some way, either writing or playing music.  Preferably both.  And I need to be regularly communicating with my friends and family, especially now that I live so far from most of them.  Undeniably, I need to be spending time in prayer and meditation on God's Word.  These are things that are the most often placed on the back burner when I'm overwhelmed, yet they are the things that keep me sane and calm and balanced.

I'm looking forward to a day off when I can rest.  I think I need to rest.  Wait a minute...that sounds familiar, like something I've read in the Bible.  Something about resting...maybe a...commandment?  We're commanded to rest?  Ah yes, our loving God actually told us we're supposed to take a break.  How awesome is that?  We get permission to relax for a little bit.

I attended Rock Harbor when I lived in Southern California, and we went through a series highlighting the importance of this often ignored commandment.  The pastors actually suggested we take a Sunday and stay home and rest, so they put on the same service two weeks in a row so half the church could Sabbath one Sunday and the other could rest the next Sunday.  I prepped during the week leading up to my Sabbath, making sure I had all my homework done, my house clean, my bills paid, my errands run.  Any loose ends that would have weighed on my mind were tied up during the week so that my Sabbath could be fully restful.  On our Sabbath we were instructed that we shouldn't do anything considered "work".  So if I actually enjoyed a morning run and was rejuvenated by it, I should do it, but in my case a morning run was something I forced myself to do that I actually hated, so I refrained.  I spent the day reading the Bible, praying, writing letters to friends, talking to family, playing my guitar, learning new worship songs, taking a nap and a bubble bath, reading, and generally relaxing.  We were instructed to avoid checking our email or any other form of communication that would promote work and worry.  It was basically a day "turned off", a vacation spent at home.

It was incredible.  An entire day with no work allowed, not even so much as folding laundry.  It was definitely difficult to make myself do it, but if you're wondering if it was worth it, the answer is yes.  During the following few weeks, I felt an incredible amount of peace.  I was calm.  The frustrations that usually caused stress simply rolled off my back.  And I think it's about time I take a directed Sabbath again.  Soon.  The last time I did it was in 2006, and I'm thinking once every five years isn't exactly the same as once a week.

Today I have what one might call a "forced" Sabbath, the kind that comes when you haven't been taking care of yourself or sleeping enough so your immune system is crap and when your husband catches a cold, you do too.  So even though I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed and I've got laundry going, I'm resting this weekend (and drinking lots of Throat Coat).  I played my guitar, I read, I took a bath.  I even slept in until 7 am!  When we don't rest as often as we need to, our bodies (and God) put us in these forced situations where we can't do anything but rest.

Hopefully you're better at this balancing act than I am.  But if there are things you've been neglecting, things you want to do but feel guilty taking the time to do, I want to encourage you to do those things today.  I must admit, sometimes I choose things that are just time-wasters instead of things that nourish my spirit.  For me, it's facebook, television (old episodes of Friends, The Office, and Arrested Development) and pinterest.  They certainly help me relax but they do nothing to help me rest, and they don't encourage me the way a phone call with a close friend does.  Incidentally, I know some people are refreshed by pinterest and facebook and whatnot, so if that is you, please take no offense.  Just do what works for you.

And if you're interested in hearing some really awesome encouragement in favor of "Sabbathing", check out these podcasts.  They're a great reminder to me that this commandment is a discipline designed to promote our trust in God and more simplicity in life.  Highly recommended.  And great listening on a day of rest.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Man of the House

On nights when I need to be in bed early and Sam hasn't yet come home from work, Morty gets to be the man of the house.  He takes his position very seriously.  He recognizes that I've gone to bed, which puts me in a vulnerable position to any intruder, and tends to follow the same routine whenever this happens.

First he establishes his place as a ferocious killer of the night.  He usually does this by attacking anything that moves on the bed, which is just my feet moving around under the comforter.  After five minutes of showing his pouncing skills on my toes, he sits on the edge of the bed and stares down the hallway, daring anyone to come close.  He then perches himself on the dresser, the highest point of the room with a perfect view of the hallway, where he continues to glare at invisible intruders, whipping his tail around angrily.  Finally, convinced there is no one else in the house, he lays down by my feet and starts taking a bath.  Whenever he hears any noise, his ears perk up and he listens for any sound of danger.  He stays in this position until he finally hears a key in the door, at which point he bolts to the front of the house to make sure it's only Sam.  Relieved of his duties, he usually goes to have a midnight snack and then plays with Willow.

No, he's not a dog, but he's quite the watch kitty.  I'm sure in his mind he's convinced he's a menacing tiger.  His meow, to him, sounds like the deafening roar of a lion.  Sometimes when I'm home alone and scared, I wish he was some type of jungle cat that could inspire fear in the heart of an intruder.  But all the same, I'm thankful for my little buddy who keeps me safe until the hubby returns, and I'm pretty sure if anyone ever did try to break in, he'd be all over them, claws out, biting as hard as he could.

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