Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lost in the Shuffle...

The daily grind. The nine-to-five. The rat race. Work.

I seem to be conflicted on this subject

Part of me would have to tell you work is not my favorite thing. If it were humanly possible for me to become independently wealthy, honey, I would jump on that train. But I have checked my family tree thoroughly for some golden apples. No such luck. 

There is also this part in me, a part which I blame my father for, that feels compelled to be the hardest worker I know. I my eyes, if I'm not bleeding by the end of the day, I probably didn't do it right. 

So somewhere, between lying on a beach sipping umbrella drinks and becoming a blood donor to the workforce, in lies the sweet spot. Not becoming a slave to my profession but not becoming a couch tumor either.

I started a new job this week. (Amy, if you are reading this, thank you and I love my job.)  I quickly realized working from home was going to be trickier than I thought. The temptation to keep going is so strong. "Oh, just one more email, then I'll stop" Twenty five email later...

There is also the temptation of knowing my bed is less than a foot away from my desk. I promise you one day, it actually called my name. "Amanda... Amaaaandaaaa!"

 But the greatest temptation any of us face with our jobs is to forget why we are here. Though it is my absolute joy to serve my fellow man, it is all my first priority to serve the Lord. In everything I do, I want it to be unto him. But it is so easy to forget him in the day to day. Intimacy with him can become non-existent because I am so focused on the day ahead. At the end of the day, I can be so exhausted, all I want is my t.v. and some Fig Newtons. Mmm... Fig Newtons.

Even in working in ministry, you feel like you have spent time with the Lord because you have talked about Him all day long. But talking is just talking when He becomes a stranger. I can talk about someone all I want but that doesn't mean I know them.

Balance is key. Being a hard worker is not wrong. Being all consumed by your profession is. I want my love for the Lord to paint everything I do. I also want my desire for the Lord to be in the forefront of my mind as the task I most need to accomplish today. 

I'm not going to get all religious on you and deliver some master formula to spending time with him. What intimacy with the Lord looks like is in respect to the individual. You know what's best for you to get fed. The challenge is not how much of your day can you carve out for Him. You would be surprised what He can do with 10 minutes. The challenge is in maintaining a worshipful heart while in the midst of the chaos. 

Whether you work in an office, a classroom, or as a stay-at-home mom, where, let's face it, can be an office and a classroom as well... the position is the same. We were made for worship. That atmosphere can be maintained within our own hearts. Being ever mindful to thank and honor Him, to praise Him and to see Him in the faces of your co-workers, your kids or even that anonymous person on the other end of the telephone. 

Let's not get lost in the shuffle. Let's get lost in Him.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.Are you not of more value than they?And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousnessand all these things will be added to you. 

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

Monday, April 16, 2012

10 Little Things: Musics...

1. This song stirs my soul

2. This song makes me wanna dance

3. This song breaks my heart

4. This song reminds me of someone

5. This song makes me proud (this is my dear friend Andrea, you can find her music here )

6. This song taught me to harmonize

7. This song makes me wish Jeff Buckley was still alive more than I already do

8. This song makes me wish I was a ballet dancer

9. This is the song I used to sing in the back of my grandma's car

10. This song makes me want to make music

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love and Other Questions I Should Probably Ask...(Part Two)

I really toiled with what I wanted to write about today. I was having massive writers block. I have been writing some deeply personal things lately and I was wondering if was beginning to be too much. I don't mind dumping out my heart, I mean, its kind of what I signed up for when I started this blog. Its just hard to know where to draw the line. I want to always be open and honest about my true thoughts, so at the end of the day, I just have to go with my gut. Today my gut says to dump out my heart again. 

Darn it, gut. 

I was informed by a friend that she thought I held back a little in my last blog. She felt I had more to say on the subject. I told her that I held back on purpose because I was afraid that I was going to run out of stuff to talk about if I didn't keep some thoughts to myself. But, if you know me, the idea I could EVER run out of thoughts is just preposterous. Yeah. That. Where do I begin? I do believe that love, true, real lasting love has a biblical format. Now I'm not talking marriage here. We will get to that later. I'm just talking love. Love is best defined to me in 1 Corinthians 13. I won't quote it all here but I will highlight a particular part:

    "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends."

To the Lord, love is everything. He is love. Love never ends. Verse 8 says so. If that's true, which I believe it is, then its not something fickle thing that we play at. Its something deeper and more holy. Most of us have heard this verse a million times by now. Poor, sick, and dying Mandy Moore read them aloud in A Walk to Remember. Crap, I love that movie...

Oops...I was making a point, wasn't I? Oh yeah. Have you every really dissected that verse? 

Dang, that's some really hard work. I haven't even lived up to the first line today, let alone the rest of it. 

In any relationship, romantic or platonic, love is a choice. Though I wish, with all my might, that He wouldn't just command me to love my neighbor but instead just make me love my neighbor, it doesn't exactly work that way. Now I can pray and ask for the Lord's heart to love someone, but at the end of the day its still a choice. My friend and I get into a huge fight. I have to choose to love her enough to walk in forgiveness. My family and I don't get along because we believe different things. I have to choose love over judgement and criticism.

When my husband is laying on the couch for the twelfth consecutive hour of his 24 marathon, I have to choose to love him, not kill him, however much He may be irritating the crap  out of me. I have to choose to love him when he may have made a bad decision as the leader of our family. I have to choose to love him even when I'm not sure he loves me back. And, God forbid, I have to choose to love him if he's been unfaithful. I could choose to stop. I could choose to walk away. At any time, I can just not love. But my heart tells me love never ends. Jesus chose to love me that way. I want to be like that. So I press on.

You also have to choose to love yourself. You can't really love your neighbor as yourself if you don't have it to give. Duh. If I don't love myself, I don't respect myself. If I don't respect myself, then I don't honor my identity in Christ and therefore dishonor the Lord. We were made to love and that love has to be born inside of us. It has to make a home in us. It has to get real comfortable, make a mess or two and then head out to find others to get messy with. Loving yourself gives you the grid to love others. Loving them becomes a selfless act because you don't need to be loved back. ( but let's face it, its whole lot better when they do, right? )

But most importantly, loving God is a choice, a choice I wish more people would make. He already loves you. There needs to be no fear of rejection. Its a done deal. All you have to do is decide to choose to love Him back. Sometimes its a choice you make a hundred times a day. If God is love, we partake of his love, and love him as well, it brings such a fullness to the act of loving another. Its whole. Its complete. 

When I was asking the Lord what to write about today, He led me to this verse in Ecclesiastes:

"By yourself you're unprotected.
   With a friend you can face the worst.
   Can you round up a third? 

   A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped." (the Message)

So what the heck does that have to do with anything? Hold on, I'm getting there. 

On the subject of romantic love, I felt the Lord was showing me something through this verse. I often dialogue with the Lord about what it takes to have a healthy marriage. It disturbs me to the core to see how much marriage is attacked in our culture, even more so in the body of Christ. I felt like He was assuring me that it was a good desire to partner with someone, whether it be marriage, a family or even a close friend. I feel the strength of community is very apparent and necessary. But the binding agent, the thing that makes the whole thing stronger, is the addition of the third party, the Holy Spirit. 

 "He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Matthew 19:6 ESV

According to the Bible, when you are married, you become one flesh, that is, the two separate beings  become one being. This is a unification of mind, body and spirit. When you take your marriage vows, you make a covenant, or binding agreements between two or more parties, with God. ( I believe a covenant can also be made between yourself and whomever you partner with if you remain unmarried.) This addition of covenant with the Lord, in my heart, is the third cord in the rope, the adherent that binds us together, and what "God has joined together, let not man separate"

Still with me? Hope so. 

Now "in love" is a topic in and of itself. I'm sure I could dig up some scripture to illustrate my point but I think I rather just shoot from the hip on this one. I do agree with my friend Arian ( I mentioned her in the last post, you should probably read it ) that falling "in love" has more to do with emotions than anything.

To me, I equivocate the initial process of falling in love to a High School prom. Its all about picking  the right clothes, spending way too much money, trying to make everything look perfect, all to come to the inevitable conclusion that it is just a dance and you are dating a mere mortal, not Brad Pitt, or whomever the heck the kids are swooning over these days. Oh wait, its that Twilight kid...what's his name? 

Whatever. The point is, that as glorious and wonderful falling in love is initially, it doesn't last. To fall in implies you can fall out. Falling in love then also becomes a choice. Without proper upkeep and probably a butt pinch or two (c'mon folks, you know you do it....hopefully its between you husbands and your own wives...butt pinches can get you into trouble.), it fades and dies. It needs proper nourishment to stay alive. Romance, communication, intimacy....these are the food of love. 

In conclusion, this is how I believe I will see kingdom come in my life in this area. I want to love well, no matter the recipient. I also do desire to get married. I will go to my grave desiring it. I don't think its for everyone but I think its a Holy desire.

"But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it." Matthew 19:11-12 (The Message)

But whether I do or don't, my position is the same. I want to love the Lord and his people, including myself.  I want to fall more "in" love with the Father and His word everyday. I want to be, as my lovely friend Heather taught me about, not just a Proverbs 31 woman, but to be a Titus 2 as well. I don't have to married to fulfill most of what these speak of and when and if I do, I will be well trained.

I want to be the kind of mother that makes Psalm 79:13 and 1 Samuel 1:9-11 a reality to the best of my ability, whether it be my own children or children God entrusts me with through teaching or mentoring.

I want my marriage to reflect Jesus the way Ephesians 5 depicts. I will encourage others to do the same. 

But above all, I want the will of God.

Whoa...I guess I figured it out. To me, this is what it means to be in love. In anything and everything I do I want to bring glory, honor and praise to the man I love and am in love with...Jesus.

I'm sure there is a lot more I could say on this subject, but frankly, my brain hurts about as much as my fingers do from typing. This is all you're getting for now.


Monday, April 9, 2012

10 Little Things: For the Home...


1. I think this is a genius way to add a little glamour to something that the kids will love too. 


2. I am in such a grey and yellow phase right now. So yummy. 


3. I had one of these at my grandma's house. It wasn't nearly as awesome as this one but still so much fun. 


4. I long for a colorful kitchen.


5. Bookshelves. Everywhere.


6. A touch of whimsy added to a child's room. And Peter Pan, of course.


7. If I could have but one wish...laundry room in my closet.


8. My dream home.


9. I love when art is clustered on the wall like this. 


10. Nooks. I love them

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love and Other Questions I Should Probably Ask...(Part One)

So lately it seems everyone I know is falling in love. Well, almost everyone I know. I'm not in love. I don't think my nephew is in love unless you count a borderline obsessive compulsion over Power Rangers "in love".
( Don't worry, we're getting him help...)

But what does that mean..."in love"?

I realized this week that I have no idea.

Its weird to think that I have somehow made it 29 years avoiding the "big L", but there it is. Not that I haven't tried, but if you recall from last weeks blog, guys weren't exactly banging down my door. I have a long history of some pretty hilarious blind dates, which I'll save for another blog. Let's just say they involved monster truck rallies, ice cream facials, arson attempts and sword fighting. No lie.

But still, nothing. 29 years and not even a blip on the radar. Well...maybe tiny blips here and there, but probably more infatuation than love. This is all quite ironic since I was determined that I was going to be married and have 5 kids by now. Heck, I would have probably gotten married at 8 if someone had let me.

As little girls, we have a tendency to view romantic love through the lens of a heroic prince coming to rescue us from whatever Disney movie was in fashion then. To my 8- year- old mind, falling in love was a sweeping and dramatic display of a romance between a  woebegone maiden, desperate for a savior and a valiant prince on a white steed, fighting heaven and hell to rescue his love. Sound like anyone we know? Hindsight man...hindsight.

Once I got past the "my husband is my saviour" perception of marriage and love, it still left the questions "What does is mean to be in love?" and "How do you know when you're in it?"

I asked these questions to some women in my life this week. Their answers were similar but each from a different perspective. My mother, who's been married to my father for almost 34 years, said "You know you're in love when you can't imagine your life without it would physically hurt to be apart from them."

This is actually something she knows all too well about. She and my father seperated for over a year when I was in high school. It was amazing, though, to watch my dad during that time. He would come over and mow our grass, buy us groceries and help pay our rent, all while he live in his brother's creepy basement. I saw Jesus move through that man and he had absolutely no idea. I remember when they got back together, I asked my mom why. She said "Because I finally saw him."

Arian has been married for 8 years now and has 3 adorable little boys. (p.s. she's also an amazing artist! check out her Etsy shop here ). To her, the terms "in love" and "love" have 2 different meanings.

"In love seems like it has more to do with positive effects the other person has on you (i.e. excited, pursued, giddy, etc.) But then there is love that's a choice. Its unconditional. When couples divorce because they "fell out of love", its because they were looking at the relationship from a self serving point of view, not a "how can I love and serve you"  point of view. That's why my husband and I say, "I love you and I'm in love with you." They're not the same thing."

Then you have my newly married friend, Christine. And by newly married, I mean really the ink isn't even dry on their marriage license. She and her husband deeply love the Lord, probably more than most I have seen. She responded, "The One who is love defines the relationship. You desire for your hurts to be healed for the sake of loving yourself and someone else to the fullest. When you're in love, you start to see your relationship with the Father in a more tangible way."

Tragically, not every love story has a happy ending. Being in love doesn't always secure everlasting bliss. Sometimes it lasts for a moment and then something will cause it to fade away. Deborah, one of my dearest friends, told me a story about a man she was once in love with.

"I remember I saw him and the thought came to me, "You're gonna fall in love with this guy." Within a week or two, I found myself utterly enamored. It was like finding your long-lost best friend. I knew him and he knew me. I was so attracted to his heart. I could tell him anything,anything at all, and he would never reject me. There was something so safe and beautiful about that. "

Their love story wasn't meant to be. Several years after their parting of ways, the man died in a hit and run accident.


So where does all that leave me? Good question. Boy do I have a great answer. I have no idea. 

Someday I will tell you about my blind dates. Someday I'll tell you about my almost love stories. Some day I will tell you about my journey in the world of online dating. Someday. But maybe not today.

I'm not sure when and if I will ever fall in love. Im still not sure if I even fully understand what it means. I guess its probably on of those "you don't know till you're in it" kind of things. I can, however, promise you that if I ever do, it will most assuredly be comical...mostly because the group of women who have their cell phone alarms set to remind them to pray for my husband every day at noon (their idea...not mine.) will rejoice in the fact that they can finally enjoy their lunches in peace.

 I also hope it will be inspiring. You know, the kind of story that makes you cry and laugh and amazed at the power of God. I hope... I hope... I hope.

I hope.

Monday, April 2, 2012

10 Little Things: Spring...

  1.  All the pretty flowers start to bloom...and if you live in Tennessee, so do the weeds.
  2. EASTER CANDY!!!!!!!!!!! OM NOM NOM NOM NOM......
  3. Time to shave my legs again...bummer.
  4. Opening the windows for some fresh air.
  5. April showers....I love the rain.
  6. I am that much closer to the next season of So You Think You Can Dance?
  7. Did I mention EASTER CANDY?
  8. The stores are filled with lovely, pastel colored things that make me happy. Now, if only I had some money...
  9. EASTER CAN-...oh...wait...I think I'm gonna be sick...too much candy.
  10. Speaking of Easter...this is the time of year we celebrate the glorious work of the Cross. The debt that Jesus paid for us as the ultimate declaration of His love and His miraculous resurrection...Hallelujah.
Thank you Jesus.