Monthly Archives: July 2012

Calm Before the Storm

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“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry parched land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

Today is Friday, which means it’s the last weekend of calm before the chaos starts back up this fall. Am I going to miss the calm? Most definitely. Will the challenges I face this fall be rewarding? One can only hope.

I was reading today and discovered something interesting about myself… I am (or used to be) one of those people who always said, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray” as if that were my last resort. I found that rather than carry unnecessary burdens like I almost always do, I could just pray and be done with it! How incredibly, mind-numbingly simple is that? Call on God, and He lifts your burdens. I always seem to struggle with my life’s challenges for as long as I can, until I’m breaking under the pressures of each of my commitments to Church, marriage, family and friends. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

God showed me this morning that by just taking a moment to lay it all out before Him in prayer, I can continue to have calm while the world around me experiences the storm. Funny, I never really get scared of literal storms. I think it goes back to when I was younger… I was at a basketball practice with my Aunt Cat where she attended college. On the way to the college, the sky was looking ominous and dark and as most young girls would be, I was a little… nervous. Anyway, I took a peek out a window in the lobby and noticed the sky was pretty scary looking so I just ducked into a hallway and prayed that the storm would pass us over and that we wouldn’t get a tornado. Shortly after I prayed, I peeked outside again, and the sky looked like it had never even thought of raining. Now maybe twelve years have caused me to remember the event in a more exaggerated way. Who knows? What I do know is that even when I was at my darkest point in life, I always remembered that one instance of prayer that God answered for me, and I think that sliver of hope is what kept me from doing anything stupid when I was in one of my dips of depression.

God hears and answers our prayers. I haven’t feared a literal storm since I was perhaps eight years old. I’m an adult now, and God is reaching me more than I ever thought he could, so why choose fear, when I can choose God’s peace? All it takes is for me to seek God in prayer; maybe an entire thirty seconds out of my day, to just sit and feel connected to God, and bare my anxieties and my concerns, my needs, my wants, my fears to the One who can banish all the bad and make something beautiful, and leave me with a peace that passes understanding. Amen to that.

Small Group Bible Study

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Small Group Bible Study

“God sets the lonely in families,…” Psalm 68:6

So like I mentioned WAY back, I’ve been feeling led to host a small group Bible study for some time now. And God finally gave me the “Ok, go!” on that venture.

I was reading Rescued by the Cross by Ken Freeman and I got to the chapter about making excuses… there was a quote I’d like to share with you:

“An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.”- Evangelist Billy Sunday (Rescued by the Cross p. 143)

I’ve been making excuses for 7 months now; I don’t know that many people, no one will show up, it might be awkward, I don’t know what material to cover, I’ve never led a group study before… and on and on and on. Well, God showed me it’s time to end my era of excuses and just do it. For all I know, there are people around me who may be truly aching for something like a small group study and they might find a family in that kind of support. “God sets the lonely in families…” I know that had it not been for my church and faith in God, I would have truly struggled to survive emotionally and financially during those periods of time I was alone while Mitch was doing what I like to call, “Marine things.” I was able to thrive because I had support that gave me the strength and wisdom I needed to overcome those temporary emotional obstacles.

I’ve been “spitballing” my idea to a few friends, and I was surprised at the support I was given. Even Mitch is supportive of the idea of a group of our friends invading our house once every week or so to grow together in spirit through our walks of faith. Or at least, he hasn’t said he’s against it, so if he’s not against it, he’s for it! Either way, I believe it will be good for both of us and give us a chance to witness to the people with whom we surround ourselves. God showed me that we (Mitch and I) may be the only family some people in this area know, since most everyone we know is here because of the Marine Corps and are far from family for reasons ranging from dysfunction to geographical distance. I love the thought of being family to my friends. I love the thought of my home being seen as the spiritual save haven outside of church where we can all come together to fellowship and grow in Christian love. I’m getting a little mushy, but I think mushy has its place. And since my marriage would assumedly be failing if not for God showing me how to love, respect and care for my husband in this military circumstance (and all others, for that matter) I think it’s the least I can do to share my experience with married couples we hang out with and to share with them that it’s God’s unfailing love and faithfulness that keeps our marriage together in spite of the odds.

So that’s my big thought of the day. I finally took initiative and responsibility for my faith and made a big step forward. Hopefully, there’s a good response. Again, if I can reach even one person, then I’ll know my efforts weren’t in vain.

New Hair, New Me

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“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

So you know how I have those “Cyclical Battles” against myself where I feel anxious, depressed, or frustrated with life? Well I’ve found that in addition to taking refuge in God’s word, and my relationship with the Lord, that I find relief when I make a change in my life. It doesn’t have to be big or drastic, which sometimes is what I crave, but any change at all sort of makes me feel renewed and refreshed; like I took a step out of the mundane and am making progress. One time I cleaned out and re-organized the closets. Another time I tried a new recipe for dinner instead of the same old dishes night after night. Yet other times I make slight physical changes, such as when I incorporated a new form of cross-training in to my daily work-out, i.e., kick boxing. These little things are slight differences that satisfy my desire for control, yet they are healthy and often times quite simplistic.

Well, I was feeling stuck in a rut with things and a new chapter of my life is about to unfold as we near this fall with teaching, and our first deployment, so I decided it was time for a change I can control… I had 7 inches of hair cut off. Unfortunately, my hair had been WAY too over-processed –

Red hair

I had dyed it deep red for a musical in college, and then had it taken back to my natural color, and quite frankly, it had been super damaged in the process- to be donated to locks of love, but that’s something I’m considering doing the next time I grow out my hair.

Anyway, Mitch hasn’t seen it yet, nor did he know it was happening, so the whole thing has yet to be revealed to him, but as soon as he gets home from work, I’ll upload a picture of the before and after effect.

I thank God that he’s working through me and continually changing me; purifying me through trials of marriage, financial responsibility, and spousal communication. I honestly feel that I’m better than I was at this point last year and I’ve grown a lot and gained much spiritually in the way of wisdom and faith in God during my sabbatical from school/work. Now that that temporary season of my life is drawing to a close with the coming fall, I praise God for the free will he has given me in the ability to redecorate, or restyle not only my house, but my outward image. I pray also that more than my outward image, God perfects my inner spirit, molding me and making me a better follower of His word, and a better wife to my husband, and a better friend, sister, daughter to all those around me; that people see more of Christ in me than my own selfish ambitions in me. Anyway, Mitch is almost home, and he won’t see this until after he’s already seen me in person so, 3..2…1, here it is!

Before….

…After!

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Divorce is our society’s emotional cancer, creating hate, rage, confusion, anger, and blame that turns into a monster. Those from divorced homes are at greater risk of going through divorce as adults. But with the right approach, you can overcome these odds.

– Ken Freeman, Rescued by the Cross

Society’s Monster

My Top 5 Favorite Doggie-proof Products

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My Top 5 Favorite Doggie-proof Products

I don’t have much of anything profound to say today. I’ve just been enjoying this past weekend with Mitch and our two border collie girls 🙂

having a border collie is a lot of work and requires enormous amounts of energy on the part of the owner, and immense patience with their active, and at times mischievous little minds. That being said, we have TWO! Anyway, since there’s not a lot in the way of deep and philosophical thinking today, I thought I’d do a product rating of my top 5 favorite doggie products for all of you pet owners in celebration of the love we have for our fuzziest family members. This is in no particular order, and these items are in my top 5 because of their durability, affordability, and likability, according to Anna and Cyd.

Penn Tennis balls- 12 for $9.04

Penn racquetball 12 for $10.67

1.) Penn Tennis balls: Now I know most of you will say that a tennis ball is a tennis ball… that is unless you actually play the sport. Well, I’m not a player myself, but I have noticed some trends among our plethora of tennis balls that I’d like to share with you. I typically go for things that are affordable. So, when choosing tennis balls for my doggies, I try to remember that they are not olympic athletes and will just end up pulling the green fuzz off anyway, so I spring for the cheaper Penn brand balls at Wal-Mart. The last time I purchased them, I got a mesh bag of 12 balls for $9.04. That’s just over 75 cents per ball as opposed to the three pack of balls for $4.49 which comes out to about $1.50 per ball. Think bulk! It’s cheaper and if your dogs chew/play/ lose tennis balls like mine do, it’ll be worth your money. OH and if you’re looking for more durability than a tennis ball, but still want something that isn’t hard, solid rubber that’ll knock their teeth out, try Penn brand racquetball! Cyd and Anna LOVE them! Cyd still tries to de-fuzz them, even though there is no fuzz, which makes a funny squeaking sound. You can get a canister of 12 for $10.67 (about 89 cents/ball).

Kong Flyer Frisbee retail $17.99 at Pet Smart

2.) Kong Flyer: I’ve tried a lot of frisbees from the cheap plastic ones that they toss out at parades sometimes to the durable plastic frisbee golf discs and none of them lasted with my chew-crazy doggies. That is until I found the Kong Flyer. It’s made of super pliable rubber and is incredibly floppy and bendy. I like this for 3 reasons: 1, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to knock out the doggies’ teeth when they catch it. 2, it doesn’t get all chewed up and shredded, 3, it is easier to throw without the chewed-upon jagged plastic gouging your hand. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this product, and recently bought a new one- not because the original got destroyed, but because we lost it over a fence into a nasty drainage ditch and I neither felt like scaling the fence or reaching my hand into that much to search for the lost rubber disc. We got our Kong Flyer at Pet Smart for $17.99- I know, sounds steep, but it’s the last one you’ll ever buy (assuming you don’t lose it over a fence) or you can find them online (wish I had known this yesterday 😦 for as little as $10 + shipping and handling.

Nylabone Dura Chew- retail $10.99, $9.89 with PetPerks card at PetSmart

3.) Nylabone Dura Chew: My love of these chew bones is almost equal to that of the Kong Flyer Frisbee… Let’s just say that Cyd loves her dura chew, and I love that she’s not munching on my furniture. We typically buy the two-pack that has one that is chicken flavored and one that is bacon flavored. Both of our dogs love them, and have fallen asleep mid-chew on countless occasions. We bought ours at PetSmart for $9.89, discounted from $10.99 for the mid-sized (up to 35 lbs.) bones via our PetPerks card. You can find them online also at slightly discounted prices. * Like Nylabone on Facebook for added savings and more!

Pedigree Dentastix- retail 40 count for $11.98 at Sam’s Club

4.) Pedigree Dentastix: Our girls love these things, and so do I. You can get them in bulk at Sam’s Club for $11.98 for a pack of 40! Not only that, but they actually help to reduce plaque and tartar buildup on your dog’s teeth as they chew. We use them as behavioral incentives also; if they are good while we are gone, they get a Dentastix chew when we come home. It may sound odd, but our girls know this and they respond accordingly. Positive reinforcement works with your pets too!

Kong Squeaky Clean Waterless shampoo $9.99 at PetSmart.com

5.) Kong Waterless Bath Spray: This stuff is truly amazing… There are so many times here in North Carolina where rain just kind of happens without warning, sometimes while the dogs are outside frolicking in the yard. Anna and Cyd LOVE mud more than any other dog I’ve ever known and sometimes it seems as if they play a game called, “Let’s see if I can make my white fur match my black fur in color using this ridiculous mud!” In fact, it’s one of their favorites. That being said, I don’t always have time or energy to put their neurotic selves in the bath tub and scrub them down so what I do (judge me if you want) is let the dirt dry, and fall off. Then I brush them down, and spritz them with the waterless bath spray. They didn’t like it at first, but they got used to it eventually. Then I rub it through their fur as if I were using a detangling spray in my hair, and then towel dry them, and brush it through. This kills the infamous wet dog smell, and is less time, and energy-consuming than a full-out bath. You can get it at PetSmart.com for $9.99.

With doggies as active as my two borders, I have to stay on top of things. These products help me to keep them entertained, active, healthy and clean, and they can do the same for your pets 🙂

left to right, Anna and Cyd

Cyclical Battles

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I was in a rut this morning. So, rather than the same old thing, I made a different breakfast. That helped a little. I experience cyclical periods of depression, and I’m pretty sure it’s related to my hormones. Even so, I feel like I’m being crushed beneath those feelings of doubt and sadness, so for kicks and giggles after I finished my daily devotion, I started a short study on trust.

Through that introductory reading on the subject of trust, I realized how overlapping trust is. If I don’t trust God to take care of me and to lead me in spiritual wisdom and truth, then I start trying to place that trust on my husband, which is wrong for a couple of reasons:

1.) God is jealous for me. He desires to be first, and foremost in my life, because that’s the way he designed it. Marriage is important, yes, but it is not meant to take the place of a close relationship with God. It can not and will not fill that void.

2.) My husband is not God. He is not omniscient, omnipresent, or almighty. To place that kind of dependence on him will just emotionally drain us both and leave him feeling frustrated and me feeling as dissatisfied and depressed as before.

So, I came to a multifaceted conclusion which is this: My jealousy, or feelings of insecurity, inadequacy or depression are due to a lack of trust in God. By not trusting that God is in control and faithful to fulfill his promises, I am denying that I am a worthwhile creation; a beautiful child of God, made exactly the way I should be. Also, the weight to lift me out of that funk is not to be placed on my husband. It is unfair and selfish of me to place that burden on him or to blame him for any of those feelings. That is my fault, for taking my focus off God, and I have to understand that my value does not come from comparing myself to other women; it comes from God.

There were three pieces of scripture covered in the trust devotion; Exodus 14:14, Joshua 21:45, and Joshua 23:8. I’ve decided to make the combination of the three my new “mantra” of sorts, because it keeps me mindful of everything I tend to let drift away when my hormones decide to go crazy and make me sad.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. [Ex. 14:14] Not one of the Lord’s good promises failed; every one was fulfilled. [Josh. 21:45] But you are to hold fast to the Lord, your God, as you have until now.” [Joshua 22:8]

The Lord will fight for me; I just need to calm down and stop doubting. There are things over which I have absolutely zero control, so to fret over their outcome is foolish. God will take care of it, I just need to stay out of the way. God always follows through with his promises. I don’t get to choose when or how, but I can rest in knowing that not a single one of His promises has ever been broken. “He never failed me yet.” 😉 I am to hold fast to the Lord as I have in the past. What cause or reason do I have to let go of a faithful, steady, unchanging, and loving God who has it all worked out? Losing sight of God’s word will only lead me to further despair. I am to continue to cling to the Father as I have before, and he will continue to carry me through whatever trials or storms life brings my way.

They say “history repeats itself,” and I find it ironic how true that is… One would think that having faced the same struggles time and time again, we as human beings would have adapted and figured out how to avoid the same complications twice… I think that’s a large part of why I journal. It is therapeutic for me to look back to a certain date, or time and see what struggles or triumphs I was experiencing. I can’t forget where I’ve come from; I must always remember the place in which I started so that I may learn from the experiences I’ve had along the way and grow in wisdom, not making the same mistakes twice. Reading back through journal entries I made back in January before I started this blog reminded me how lost and insecure I was. I felt useless and confused and I wanted nothing more than for God to show me what I was supposed to do. It seemed that I kept walking around in circles because I hadn’t figured out that perhaps what I needed was just a season in which I could grow closer to God. I was looking at my future in terms of what I thought would be best and what I wanted at the time, instead of letting God lead me down the path I was supposed to take. Looking back to six months ago, I understand a little bit more about where I am today. And while there are still some things which make absolutely no sense to me now, I am sure that when the time comes, I will look back and reflect on how amazing and flawlessly God wove my path.

“Farther along we’ll know all about it. Farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up, my brother! Live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all, by and by.” (Farther Along, one of my favorite songs)

Good Day!

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Greetings, sports fans!

Today has been just an all around good day.

I spent the morning (early morning) reading and watching the news, sipping my morning smoothie -I think I may be allergic to honey- and planning the rest of my day. Then I met my new friend, Suzanne, at the fitness center for a work-out and we broke a sweat on the elliptical machines. Having gone all out yesterday with my new medicine ball and resistance loops, I took it easy on my knees and decided to save running for another day. Anyway, we went to lunch after our work out and talked for a few hours, and I was pleased to find that  I now know a woman who is like-minded as me in practically every area of discussion. God truly blesses me with the people he brings in to my life. After that, I made a quick trip to Barnes and Noble Booksellers where I picked up a copy of Night Light by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson. The Christian radio station back home used to have segments in which Dr. Dobson would be interviewed on various subjects. Having heard him speak on the topic of marriage and specifically his marriage to Shirley, centered on Christ, I was drawn to the book. Seeing as I’ve been wanting to start a couples’ small group study for a while now, and I think I’ve finally found the right devotional to get it started. So that made my day considerably brighter as well as the rare and treasured girl-time. Then I made my way to Sam’s Club to curb my husband’s root-beer fix to find that the mattress we had been eyeballing in Sears last weekend was about $400 cheaper there! WHO KNEW RIGHT!? That is definitely a purchase that will be made in the near-ish future.

I got home, unloaded the groceries, and noticed that it is Taco Tuesday on my menu board! YAY! Then my husband got home from work before 3:00! I think today is the day of blessings. I honestly don’t think there is anything that could get me down today, and I think that makes today appropriate for my first real post after my vacation.

I have a lot of aspirations this coming school year.

1.) I plan on substitute teaching for the first time in my life… I know I’m underestimating its difficulty, but who knows.

2.) In the spring, I’ll be starting back to school at UNC-W for my bachelor’s degree! Woot! It’s more competitive in the spring, but since the school requires at least a 3.0 gpa with 50+ credits, and I have a 3.36 and 70+ credits, I think I’ll be just fine.

3.) Silently Struggling is still in the works. For those of you who don’t yet know of this endeavor, please visit my other blog by clicking the link. Planning and making connections to get the details in order for next June.

4.) Small group devotional at my house… I’m trying to think of a clever name for it… but I’m all out of cleverness… Basically, I’ve got it in mind to be a married couple’s bible study with dessert and drinks, or perhaps potluck dinners once a week or once every other week.

6.) All the usual commitments to church choir and hand bell choir also resume in August, and I look forward to serving my congregation through music 🙂 Because it’s what I do best.

So I’ll be keeping you all updated on all of these various projects and goals and looking forward to your support and encouragement as well as any advice you may have. I thank God every day that I’m able to reach at least one person through this blog and I’m continually thankful to all of you readers who keep me accountable and progressive in all of my aspirations.

*Is it common for food allergies to make one’s face/neck itchy/bumpy like sand paper? Because I can’t think of anything unusual in my diet, except that I’ve started using honey as a sweetener in my tea and smoothies instead of sugar, and about the time of the switch, the itchies came… just curious… I may lay off it for a few days and see what happens.

My Ponderings

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My Ponderings

“May integrity and uprightness protect me because my hope is in you.” Psalm 25:21

Well, I made a recent discovery that when Dave Matthews Band is playing in the background, I tend to think more deeply profound thoughts. I think it’s the syncopated rhythms and incorporation of violin and saxophone into rock music. Whatever it is, I like it.

Anyway, I was reading my devotional on integrity and an interesting point came up while I was reading 1 Peter 3:13-15:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? [14] But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.’ [15] But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

Peter in essence just said there, that the opposite of fear is faith. Because we have faith in Christ, we are free from fear, which relates to yesterday’s sermon. Pastor Jeanette spoke about Jesus calming the storm while he was on the boat with the disciples. She pointed out that Jesus didn’t tell them not to be afraid- fear is part of human nature; when we don’t understand our circumstances, we fear the end result, or the unknown. Instead, Jesus asked them why they were afraid. Why did the twelve let their fear rule them when Jesus was right there in the boat with them?

I asked myself this question this morning. I was feeling apprehension at the sheer size of the Silently Struggling 5k project finally becoming a reality. I’m afraid of failing in my attempt. I don’t want to make promises or set goals only to fail to attain them. Then I remembered yesterday’s sermon- Jesus is in my boat… so why fear? The answer to that question is simple; I was overwhelmed by the thought of constructing something so much larger than me on my own. But I don’t have to do it on my own. I emailed Pastor Jeanette, and she put me in contact with another woman in the church who was able to give me the right contacts of all the people and places I would need to get the ball rolling.

It’s times like that when I really feel the love of Christ- through other believers willing to reach out to me, and help me strive toward a bigger goal. That’s when Psalm 25:21 spoke to me. Integrity and uprightness will protect me BECAUSE my hope is in the Lord. I don’t have to worry about failure. God will work that out because I trust that he can and will. As long as my hope remains in God, and I continue to pursue Silently Struggling for the right reasons, and out of the proper ambition, then I truly believe that God will help me accomplish something spectacular through it.

I encourage you to visit the Silently Struggling blog at the link above. Please watch the video, “And Then They Came Home.” And let it break your heart like it broke mine. We can make a difference. The only thing separating success and failure is action.