Sunday, November 14, 2010

Plan for His Surprises!

Recently, I was talking with an eighth grade girl about her future. I listened as she rattled off this magic to do list:

1. go to college
2. graduate
3. buy a house
4. live on my own
5. get married

While I was glad to see her ambition, her list really made me think of what I'm teaching my children and what motivates my own plans. If I do believe I was made by Our Creator and was made "for His glory," shouldn't my plans be motivated by my worship of Him? If I'm following what the world sees as The Perfect Formula for a Successful Life, how can I consider the Lord's plan for my life and the special giftings He's given me?

I didn't stick to the world's magic success formula. I have no beef with you if you did. My not sticking to the magic formula has brought a LOT of struggle, but has also blessed me tremendously. God has interrupted my plans...often, very often. First, He brought a young man into my life who loved Him and it wasn't long before I was smitten and knew I wanted him to be my husband. Getting married before I finished college certainly wasn't in the magic formula, yet brought surprises - good and hard, can't-help-but-learn-to-trust-the-Lord hard. BUT, experiencing the highs and lows of our lives together made us stronger; those times deeply connected our commitment and have helped us to stay the course when it would have been easier to throw in the towel- more than once. Financially, sure we could have done more (vacations, eating out, golfing etc.) and had more (stuff: nicer clothes, cars and houses, etc.). Had we stuck to the formula where would our treasure lay? in a fat retirement or savings account, in all our stuff - Look, I know me and I know my heart- I would have been secure in my stuff and in money, not in the One who gives me breath....

I'm learning, a little more each day, to be prepared...and thankful... for the unexpected surprises the Lord brings. I can live for my plans, but will I be living for the Lord?

A little over a year ago, my husband and I made plans --plans to leave a great church and great friends and we fooled ourselves into thinking it was God's will. It has been one of the most difficult years of our lives. For awhile I convinced myself it was our mistake, and on many levels - from not deeply praying about moving, not truly seeking the will of my Father- it was our sin that brought us to this place. After the year we've had, I am realizing that what I say I believe IS really true...that it IS true that "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). As hard as the year has been, I am now confident that while we made plans to come here, it was He who directed our steps for His purposes, His big picture - one that I cannot see. He is using all this mess for good.

Because of the rough year we've had, stepping out on faith, we have resigned from our post here in Atlanta. While we desperately desire to be back home near family and friends and the music scene (the hubs is a musician), we are seeking God's will and are prepared to move wherever He leads. While I am tempted to worry as the promise of a steady monthly income fades, I must trust in the One who put me here. Presently, there are a lot of irons in the fire; one of which is exploring the possibility of working with a missions team in Prague, Czech Republic. What a surprise! In a whirlwind of being asked to come, support raising, and expediting my passport, we are booked to leave for Prague in two weeks! God used a very generous family and another friend of the family to immediately provide for the plane tickets before we'd even sent out the support letters!

I know that living in Prague has never entered my internal 'Plan of Andrea,' but desperate times have opened a crack in my will, opening my heart to this possibility. I pray that this trip will be a respite for these spirits, wounded by men and by life and I'm hoping we can discern God's will for what's around the bend. As the adrenaline swirls with the thoughts in my head, I am confident that I am safe in the center of His will as I mark off the top two things on my 2010 'to do' list..

I must expect to be surprised, I must expect His perfect provision. My hope for you, and for my children, is to realize that life is so much richer, so much more exciting, challenging and growth-enhancing when you recognize God interrupting your plans, surprising you with HIS. Let Christ lead your years, months, days and moments. Let Him book your calendar...Open up to His surprises and you will be blessed.

Matthew 6: 19-34
Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Proverbs 16:1-3

But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Fruits of the Spirit, Part II: Self-Control

Galatians 5:22-24 (NKJV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness,

goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

We have had a really, reeeeeally rough year. After taking ten days to get away to visit family (and look for a job for my husband...) we came back home trying to get in some sort of routine again. Going back to Central Time from Eastern along with the 'fall back' time change, we were all sleeping in until (I'm embarrassed to say) at least ten. Either we're just exhausted or our internal clocks need some serious adjusting! I had even given the children a speech yesterday about how "tomorrow, we're going to have a Routine.." and "we're going to be done with homeschooling before lunch!" Well, when I finally herded the kids into the school room their tummies were evidently screaming so we headed to the kitchen for another detour. Then it was back to school, and on to yard work and supper.

Seeing our redneckish backyard littered with toys, plastic drink cups and bowls (my good kitchen bowls being used for mudpies and my four year old's 'cooking creations' of grass and leaves) the hubs and I became frustrated realizing how little self-control our children had in picking up after themselves and taking care of the things they've been given. I blurted out that we hadn't exactly been parenting very well for the past year during our spiritual, emotional, being kicked down in the dirt mayhem.

Our children had not been very self-controlled; they had been following our example or lack-thereof. So many things in this life require self-control: reaching for the remote and a bag of chips vs. following up a salad with a walk, avoiding road rage when you've been cut off, maintaining vehicles and simply doing the dishes when the kitchen's a mess. When I think of self-control, I think of passing up those delectable brownies to avoid tipping the scales, but self-control goes beyond the basics of keeping a trim waistline, or maintaining a schedule. Self-control is an asset to every relationship, especially marriage & family.

What does self-control look like in a marriage??

How 'bout...

-avoiding situations where you are alone with someone of the opposite sex
-caring for your body out of respect for your spouse and children
-avoiding inappropriate movies, music, etc. that fill your mind with unclean thoughts
-realizing that what you purchase effects your household budget
-taking a moment to calm down when you are upset or angry
-guarding the door of your lips so you don't sin against another (Psalm 141:3)
-intentionally loving and serving others before yourself

What does self-control look like in parenting??

-modeling self-discipline, diligence
-honoring one another rather than assaulting each other with hurtful words and actions
-avoiding being a lazy disciplinarian, getting up to discipline every time they disobey
-not taking out your stress on your children, who are really just acting like kids.....
-honoring your children's requests even when you are busy
-honoring the things that are precious to your children (even if it's a yucky, slimy, warted toad)

Self-control is a quality that God wants us to be mindful of. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit that is good to others and is an outpouring from the attitude of your heart. It can really be a gift to your spouse, your marriage and your family. Think about what that looks like for you.

So tonight, when I head to bed, setting my alarm for 8am (hopefully, my thoughts won't keep me up until 4am again....) my hope is to let the day begin with a motivating self-control that will encourage my family. Sometimes simply being up and awake with coffee in hand, ready to greet those bouncy curls and chatty lips does good for my soul, setting the tone for a good day....I am thankful God so often gives us tomorrows to try again!

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. - Proverbs 16:32 Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. - Proverbs 25:28

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: the Norah Jones Project

Recently on behalf of the Norah Jones project with One2One Network, I had the privilege of receiving Norah Jones' new album to review, giving my honest opinion.

From her duets with Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, to turning back the clock with Ray Charles, Norah Jones' newest album ...Featuring Norah Jones had me groovin.' Listening to the album made me feel like I was scanning an old radio. This album is diverse, moody and sassy. If you have little dancers like me, they'll love putting on cowboy hats to take a turn to Bull Rider, or you might like to grab your main squeeze for a slow dance to her collaboration with The Little Willies entitled Love Me. For the rocker in you, you'll be delighted with Norah joining The Foo Fighters and if you're in the mood for rap, meet OutKast -I'm still warming up to that one! Norah Jones' voice is as smooth as ever and you'll delight in experiencing this diverse collection of songs.

to order ...Featuring Norah Jones