how do I know?

When I think about volunteering vs serving, I think that my natural tendency is to jump into more than what God has asked me to do.  And that usually leads me to giving a less than 100% effort in the tasks that are actually from Him.

Of all the opportunities that I am presented with on an regular basis, how do I know which are the ones that He wants me to take on?

When the children were little, I was overwhelmed with all that I had to do as a mommy and homemaker.  One day, I wrote out a list of five different things that I thought were important in my day, and then I asked Chris to rate them in order of importance to him.  (While I was a mommy and homemaker, I was first and foremost my husband’s helpmate, and I wanted to be a source of encouragement to him.)  I think this was the first time that I used priorities to help me determine what I could or could not do outside of my home.  If I couldn’t have a hot meal on the table, have clean clothes in my husband’s closet or keep a clean kitchen, I knew that, out of respect for my husband’s authority, I shouldn’t get involved in ministries outside of my home until I could carry out the ministries I had within my home.

As I was able to learn more discipline in keeping our home and raising our kiddos, being involved in other ministry opportunities became a possibility.  Every year, I would pray through what my priorities should be for that coming year.  And when I would hear of needs, or people would ask me to do something, I would prayerfully and honestly check it against what I wanted to be priorities in my life.

Because of the truth that my husband and I are one, I also knew that I should not make big time commitments without him.  Whether he is directly involved or not, whatever I am involved in affects him.  And so, it truly helps me to run these opportunities by him and find out what his thoughts are.

For example, in the fall, I signed up to do a Bible Study that I was really excited about.  But as the weeks went on, I realized that my husband really needed me at home.  Because studying the Bible is a good thing, I had jumped right in.  But I should have prayed about it and checked to make sure it was the best thing for us.  I had committed myself to this study, while unable to minister to my husband.  If I had checked this opportunity against what I knew were God-ordained priorities, I would’ve known that the Bible study, at that particular point in time, was a not for our best.

And there are also those moments when I don’t even have time to think or pray.  It is when God interrupts my day and my only response should be to act.  Like the events that I describe in this post.  God has continued to bring opportunities like that into our life.

There are many different ways to work through the different ministry opportunities that come my way. But whether it is a request from another person, a ministry that my heart has a passion for, a hungry couple standing on my front porch or a need that I’m not sure I’m up for, my first response should always be to talk to God about it.  Ask Him what He wants and then trust that He will guide me.

serving vs. volunteering

Chris and I were talking this afternoon about our response to certain ministry opportunities that God has brought our way.  In all honesty, it has been hard for us to jump back into serving.  We are probably pretty cautious right now, and trying to get back on our feet.

But in this phrase, “jump back into serving”, lies an untruth that God is addressing.  Am I really serving?  Or am I just volunteering?

A volunteer is one that gets to choose when and how she undertakes a certain task.  If she doesn’t “prefer” a certain ministry at church, or doesn’t feel comfortable, or any number of reasons that one could come up with, she has the freedom to say no.

A servant is one that does the will of her master.  It doesn’t matter if she is tired, feels incompetent, doesn’t understand or is “too busy”.  When her master asks her to perform a certain task, her duty is to carry it out.  Some might say “but God gifts us to do certain tasks, and I’m not gifted in that area”.  And my answer would be “I can trust that God is going to ask me to carry out the tasks He has gifted me to do.  If He is asking, it’s because He has given me what I need to carry it out.”

And I can do this with a completely confident heart.  My master will never ask me to do something that doesn’t line up with His Word.  My master will never ask me to do something that will harm me.  It might be difficult or uncomfortable, but I am safe in His arms.  Always.  And on top of this, He is not only my Master, but a loving Father.  Which means that he gives me times of respite, He cares for my well-being and I can trust that He knows exactly what I need.

I think that finding the balance between doing it all, whether God has called me to or not, and finding a multitude of reasons not to be involved in opportunities that I become aware of, can be a difficult thing.  BUT, if I truly trust Him, I will also trust that He will give me discernment to tell these apart.

If I can trust Him for salvation, then surely I can trust Him in these matters.  And if I want to truly call Him Master, that makes me His servant.

And this means that every opportunity that comes up is not mine to sort through, choose what I want and reject what I’m not interested in.  It does mean that when God says “please take care of this for me”, my response should be “I would love to”.

If I have to choose between the ease of being a volunteer or a lifetime of servitude to the God of the Universe, I will choose being a servant.  I think that it is a decision that I will have to make every single day.  Maybe multiple times a day, but it is my heart, and I want Him to hold me to it.

[On an completely different note, I am 12 days into my Isagenix Cleanse.  I believe that I am still going through a lot of detox.  Which doesn’t surprise me with some of the medications that I am on/have been on for many years.  But, I am off my sleep aids, I am one of my prescription medications and I have a lot more energy in the morning.  Once I discovered that I wasn’t eating enough protein and changed that, my headaches are easing up and my mid-afternoon slumps aren’t so “slumpy”.  I have continued to learn a lot about how lack of magnesium affects the body and the importance of a correct pH balance for good health.  It is fascinating and I really do love learning about all this.]

Three days in…

On Friday, I started the 30 Day Cleanse from Isagenix.  This system is made to fortify my body with high quality nutrients while encouraging it to burn fat cells, which is where toxins are stored.  I was excited to open the box and look at these products which have been life-changing for so many people.

My day started out with a serving of Ionix Supreme.  I simply added a scoop of the powder that is filled with adaptogenic and antioxidant herbs and nutrients to about 8oz of warm water and sipped it down, just like tea.  It reminds me of hot apple cider!

Each day, I drank some really yummy shakes (at first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but I’m really liking them now!) and ate a normal, healthy meal.  I also used a couple of supplements.  I’ll write more about the shakes and the supplements over the next several days.  On Friday night, I had started to get a bit of a headache.  That didn’t surprise me, as I knew my body would have to go through sugar and caffeine withdrawal.  By last night, it had turned into a full-fledged raging migraine, which could very well have been from the incoming storm front.  Changing weather is one of my main migraine triggers, and totally out of my control.

I woke up this morning without a migraine, and ready to start the 2 day “deep cleanse”.  Throughout the day today and tomorrow, I will be drinking Cleanse for Life, which is a natural blend of herbs and other good stuff to help boost my metabolism and energy levels.  I will be drinking lots of water and herbal tea, and avoiding the kitchen while my men are in there making their food! (oh my word!  “Leftovers-day” never smelled so good!!) I feel a bit drained, but thus far, I have avoided temptation, because I know it will be good to give my digestive system a chance to rest.

On Tuesday morning, I will return to my daily schedule of 2 shakes and a healthy meal.  One day at a time, I’m gonna keep doing this! : )

HOPING to be HEALTHIER

A couple of years ago, my friend Kathleen did a 30Day Cleanse through a company called Isagenix.  It was exciting to hear (via her updates on Facebook) about the positive changes her body went through while doing it.   For this busy mama (10 people in their family!) to have increased energy and a wonderful sense of health and well-being was really inspiring.

Although she invited me to try it out, I wasn’t quite ready yet.  I don’t even remember why.  I had tried another wellness company, and it just ended up not being a good fit for me.  I’m glad I tried, because I am learning what works for my body and what doesn’t.  And that’s a good thing.

But about a month ago, I was at the end of my rope. I did a little more research into Isagenix and gave Kathleen a call.  I wanted to try the 30 Day Cleanse.  I continued my research into this company and the products they sell, I have prayed about this and talked with my husband, and we are convinced that it is time for me to try it out.

These products contain high-quality ingredients that work at healing and building up my body.  The goal is to help my body work the way God made it to work.  I need a  potent, nutritional “jump charge” to get it moving in the right direction.  While I see many different things that need to change for me health-wise, my top three priorities right now are increased energy, better sleep and clearer thinking.  It is hard to tackle life when you are lacking in any of those areas.

I should be receiving my products from Isagenix in a day or two, and then I will be starting this 30 Day Challenge.  I don’t know what each day will hold, or how it will make me feel, but I’m hopeful.  And hope is a good thing.

I am planning to post regular updates, so if you are curious how it’s going for me, or would like to cheer me on a bit (because I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need it), please stop by and say hi. : )

what is my knee-jerk reaction?

I’ve often heard it said that hindsight is 20/20.  I completely agree.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading through old journals and was able to see where I have grown in my understanding of a very real struggle in our life throughout the years.

That struggle is my response to our financial/material circumstances.  I have often had a “knee-jerk reaction” to the times when I feel our family has a “need” and I cannot see how in the world it will be met.  My natural inclination was to panic, and try to figure out how to bring in more money to our household.

While I think that supplementing the family income can be a wonderful thing, I have my doubts that doing so because of a “knee-jerk reaction” is a wise way to go about it.

These are a few things I have learned, especially in this past year, that have changed my perspective on how to respond to our family’s “needs”.

  1. God is our ultimate source of provision.  He might use our career, He might use our creativity and hard work, He might use our church family, or He might use a stranger or a situation to provide what we need.
  2. I have had to redefine “need”.  While I might think that we need a large bag of yummy looking fresh fruit for our family, I have learned that sometimes that need is met by receiving a batch of pears that are almost “gone” and picking through, cutting off the rotten spots and using the good parts.  Maybe they won’t receive a whole pear each, but instead, they get chunks of pear to eat with their yogurt.  Instead of “needing” a whole loaf of French bread to go with soup, I can use just a couple of crusty rolls by slicing them, drizzling with olive oil and toasting under the broiler.  It is sufficient-and pretty darn nice, if you ask me!  Maybe instead of purchasing brand new gifts for our boys this Christmas, we will be able to find them each a gift from one of the thrift stores in our area.  Maybe we don’t need to keep the thermostat at 65 to keep the house warm, but we can stay warm by lowering the thermostat and wearing an extra layer (or two!).
  3. I need to feel confident in the role I play in my household.  We have chosen to be a one income family so that I could stay home and take care of the children and the house.  I fully embrace the fact that Chris’ role is to bring in the paycheck, and I get to stretch it as far as it will go.  I think that having confidence in the role that I have chosen helps me avoid the “knee-jerk” reaction of thinking it is my responsibility to bring in more income.  When those times come that I am paying bills and buying groceries and I don’t see how to make things work, I pray for creativity as I juggle our budget and take one day at a time.
  4. The one day at time concept is one that I learned this past year while we were unemployed for several months.  I am a planner.  And while this can often be a good thing, it has often interfered in my ability (and choice) to trust in God’s daily provision.  If we need dish soap today, I will go ahead and purchase it.  I no longer stress that if I purchase what I need today that I won’t be able to get what we might need next week.  He has never failed to provide exactly what we need, and just when we need it!  We often turned to Matthew 6:25-34

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I also love this passage from the chapter of Proverbs, verse 8-9

    “Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say,“Who is the Lord?”
    And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

It all boils down to trust.  When we find ourselves in a seemingly impossible place, between our income and our needs, I no longer experience the knee-jerk reaction of panic and scrambling for what I think we need.  Trust in who God is and what He does keeps me hanging on even tighter to my role as homemaker and ask for the creativity and perseverance that I need to accomplish what He wants me to accomplish.  As I focus on being here for my boys and taking care of our home, He has never failed to take care of us, nor will He ever!

Oceans

It was September 2013 when Michaela first recommended this song to us.  Knowing that we were taking a huge step of faith, selling most of our possessions and leaving everything that was familiar and comfortable to us, she knew that it would speak to our hearts.

OCEANS (Where Feet May Fail)
You call me out upon the water,
the great unknown, where feet may fail,
and there I find you in the mystery,
in oceans deep my faith will stand 
 
And I will call upon Your name
and keep my eyes above the waves
when oceans rise
my soul will rest in Your embrace
for I am Yours and You are mine.
 
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
 
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever You would call me
take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of My Savior

 

I cried the first time I listened to the words of this song, as we were packing up and getting ready to say goodbye to friends and family and move to the other side of the country.
Tears streamed down my face a couple of months later when we sang this song in a church service, as we sought the courage to take a risk and stand up for Truth.
And then again a month later, as our hears lay open and wounded, struggling to understand how people’s actions could cause such hurt.
Four months later, as we stood in church singing this song, we found ourselves at a place of trying to grasp what God had planned for our life.  Our hearts were broken and we were completely at His mercy.
digital pictures 2006 047
 And then, we heard it again a couple of months ago.  We thought we possibly knew what God had planned for us, but in this past year, we’ve learned enough about a life of following after Him to know that it is indeed the great unknown.  If there is any peace to be had in this world, it is resting in His embrace, with our eyes fixed on Him and not on the uncertainty around us.
I’m so thankful that our dear girl and the wisdom she had in connecting our hearts with this song, knowing that it would give us the courage to live through a very difficult year.

learning how to share the Good News

It is easy for me to share my life with other people, but for some reason, when it comes to sharing the Good News about Jesus with others, my brain seems to freeze up and I can’t seem to share freely.  One of the things that I learned at NTBI was how to share these truths with others.  Basically, there are three crucial issues in sharing the Gospel.

First of all, there needs to be an awareness that mankind (as a whole, there is no exception) has a problem.  We are sinful beings who are separated from God.
in that

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23
As it is written, ” None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
 Romans 3:10

Secondly, how wonderful to know that we can share with others God’s solution for our need.  He sent His Son to make payment for our sins.

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
 Romans 5:8
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God
is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23
So, what is a person to do in order to accept God’s solution to their problem?  Exercise saving faith.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
For by grace you have been saved THROUGH FAITH.  And this is not
your own doing; it is the GIFT of God, not a result of works, 
so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9
What exactly is saving faith?  It is claiming (by personal choice) and relying EXCLUSIVELY upon Christ’s work on the cross-His death, His burial and then His resurrection-to be sufficient payment for my sin.  This kind of faith will always produce in me character qualities and actions that reflect our desire to let Him stand in our place before God.
How I desperately want to be the kind of person who will not only live in a way that reflects Jesus, but also someone that has the boldness and words to explain to someone else how to have the same kind of relationship with God?

five things I can do to make worship a priority

“As Jesus and His disciples were on their way,
He came to a village where a woman named
Martha opened her home to Him.  She had a sister 
called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what
He said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations
that had to be made. She came to Him and asked,
‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me 
to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset
about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. 
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42
 
  1. Plan for it.  Put spending time in God’s Word into my schedule.  Cease my busyness in order to create this time.
  2. Get up early enough to make it a quiet time, where my heart can focus wholly on God.  (in other words, when the kiddos are sleeping or even napping in the afternoon, if morning isn’t your best time)
  3. Create a worshipful atmosphere in the house-inspirational art or Scripture verses on the wall, playing worship music
  4. Set goals for Scripture memorization.
  5. Engage myself wholly in prayer.  Start a prayer journal to keep a record of the ways in which God is answering prayers and speaking to my heart.

{written in 2001: Last night, I wasn’t feeling well and so I took some ibuprofen and planned on reading in bed until I fell asleep.  I was planning on reading a fiction book, but was prompted to spend time in my Bible study and simply reading the Scriptures.  It was a wonderful time and I found that I have an intense desire to read the words of Jesus.  I found myself imagining that  Jesus was speaking to me in Luke 10:41.  “Nicki, Nicki, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few are necessary.  Really, only one…choose the good part, which will not be taken away from you!”}

Scripture memorization

Reading about the importance of memorizing Scripture and actually doing it are two different things.  Here is one of the ways that I have attempted to put this into practice in our home and in my life.

Saturday, June 23, 2001

From childhood, we should be teaching our children the Scriptures which will give them the wisdom that can lead to salvation.  (2 Timothy 3:15)  It is one of my responsibilities as a mother.

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.” Romans 10:17

Although I read on a daily basis, I haven’t been memorizing.  I will start putting a memory verse up for our entire family to work on, one verse at a time.  We can work on it at every meal.  (Chris thought it was a good idea.)  Hopefully, as the children get older, we can memorize longer passages together!

the question about Facebook…

I was asked several times yesterday about my decision to deactivate my Facebook page. I thought maybe this would be a good way to share the thought process behind my choice.

First off, this is not a matter of Facebook being “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “bad”. I love that so many people use it to connect and minister and enjoy relationship with one another. I also know that it can be a time-waster or discouragement for others. These issues are not the motivating factors behind my decision.

It feels more like an invitation.

Let me explain…

A few months ago, I was feeling very overwhelmed and distrustful of people. I was also overwhelmed and saddened by everything that is going on in the world. I was discouraged by some of what I saw and read on Facebook. I also was depending on my Facebook friends for fellowship, and was hesitant to enter into face to face fellowship with people at the church we had started attending. I also had been thinking a lot about the amount of “me” that I put out on the internet. (which is ironic since I am going to be publishing this post…)

Anyway, I decided to deactivate my account and see how it affected me. Honestly, for the most part, I loved it. I didn’t love missing out on the news that my nephew had acknowledged Jesus as His Saviour, I didn’t love missing out on family pictures and checking in on my friends, but I did love the margin that it created in my life. I love the space it created for me to think and process and stay in one place (mentally and emotionally) for a longer period of time.

I started it up again once we knew we were moving because it really is an incredibly easy way to keep people posted on what’s going on in our lives. But, I knew that I would most likely deactivate it again once we were settled.

My reasons for deactivating it are different this time.

Now that we are starting to slow down and settle into one place, the whirlwind of this past year is catching up to me. I am filled with emotions and thoughts and desires and griefs that I am trying to process. I am realizing how connected my heart is to my mouth, and how I need to learn to run my heart’s thoughts through my brain before I speak. I am tired. I am sad. I am in need right now.

We have SO much hurt and evil in our world. There is so much despair. So many horrifying events taking place around us.

There is also so much beauty. So many beautiful places that God has created. So many beautiful moments. So many opportunities to live life together. So many people to love. So many people that love us in return. There are so many great ideas on Pinterest. There are so many great recipes that I’d love to try. There are so many gifts I would like to make. There are so many ways I would love to serve.

There is just SO much.

And my heart is overwhelmed.

He is inviting me right now to simplify. To ground myself in Him. To create margin in my heart, my mind and my life.

I am not saying this is a forever decision. I don’t know what the future holds. I just know that for this season, He is inviting me to be off of Facebook and do something different. I still want to live life with the people I care about, I am just going to go about it in a different way.

He is inviting me to come with Him to a quiet place. He is leading me beside still waters.

And I want to follow Him there.

update-a few weeks ago, someone that I grew up with lost his young wife to cancer.  Not being able to get on Facebook and send my sympathies made me so sad, and I began to think about coming back to FB.  I had also been missing all the stuff that is shared on our family page, so I am trying it out and seeing how it goes!