Sunday, August 28, 2016

My 3-D Summer

Back to school this last week means the end of summer.  That brings with it a lot of questions about how my summer was.  The short answer I have given is "good, busy, and too fast."  In a nutshell, my summer consisted of summer school, jury duty, kids' baseball games, swimming, hanging out, VBS, scrapbooking, lots of crocheting, and two big trips.

The more I have been asked about my summer, the more I have reflected on it.  In addition to the list above, it falls into three dimensions:  Destress, Descreen, and Decaffeinate.

1.  De-stress

This primarily was accomplished by sleeping more.  I didn't get up at 5:00 every day this summer.  I didn't set the alarm at all, except for a few days when I had to be somewhere at a certain time.  But those days were few, and I just let my body sleep as much as it needed.  I woke up between 7 and 7:30 most days, and it was glorious!  My body was fully rested, and I felt great.  The other thing I did to ward off stress was try to  find balance between what I needed to do and what I wanted to do.  Between working around in the house and spending time with the kids.  Between doing dishes and crocheting.   Between running errands and chauffeuring kids and just hanging out at home.  

2.  De-screen

My husband saw this idea somewhere, and we implemented it.  I call it "Screen Time Economy."  This involves the kids earning time on their tablets or in front of the TV by earning chores.  They don't seem to care about money too much, but they sure like their screens.    Little jobs get a little time, and big jobs get a bunch of time.  I don't really care if you veg out for a while if you have already done everything I wanted you to do.  I love the way it works.  My house didn't really get any cleaner; they don't want to do the big jobs no matter what the incentive.  But they were forced to find other ways to spend their time.  I heard a lot of creative play; sometimes they even played together!   We played a lot of board and card games together.  I also quickly realized that if I was putting limits on their screen time, I had to limit my own as well.  I can't very well sit around with my phone or iPad all day, if I am expecting my children to do other things.  I began to realize that electronic games had a stronghold on me so I have deleted all of those off my iPad in order to remove that temptation.

3.  De-caffeinate. 

I love a good cup of coffee with lots of cream.  (My husband suggests I should just have a cup of warm milk!)  Nothing goes better with Bible study than a hot cup of joe.  Plus, I really love having a hot drink in the morning to get me going.  But early in the summer, I gave it up.  One day I ran out of creamer, and I decided I wasn't going to buy anymore.  I wanted to see if it had any impact on the spikes in my blood pressure.  This is in an attempt to figure out what causes my blood pressure to spike.  I had already switched to decaf and limited myself to one cup a day.  I was still having trouble with my blood pressure though so I decided to go without the coffee for a while to see if it made a difference.  It does seem to help so I guess I am going to stick with it.  I am also trying to give up Diet Coke, my number one vice.  I am still working on this one, although I have cut way back.  But if you see me with a Diet Coke in my hand, just know that I am a work in progress.  

I feel good about my summer.  Not every moment was perfect, of course, but I will remember this one fondly.  And that is a good place to be as I am now back into full swing of school schedule.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Filling the Pitcher: Reflections on Declare Conference

The Filled Pitcher | Meridian Magazine

Last summer when I went to Declare, I was all wrapped up in insecurities and fears.  Insecurities about myself and fears that my blog wasn't good enough or whatever.  I didn't even know everything that was making me feel anxious.

When I got there, I discovered that God had a very personal message for me.  Almost every speaker, almost every piece of memorabilia, every person I encountered gave me this message: I am enough; God is more than enough.  On the last day there,  I got a bracelet reads "Love > Fear."  This perfectly summed up everything I learned at Declare.  Love.  God is Love.  He is bigger than fear.  Fear comes from the devil, the enemy, and God is bigger than all the fears that the enemy can put in front of me.  It was a good message, a good word from God.

That message carried me through a whole year.  This year, going to Declare, I was feeling pretty good.  I wasn't having insecurities about myself or my blog.  The people I met last year at Declare were so warm and  loving and welcoming, not judgmental in the least.  I wasn't worried, but I didn't really go with any expectations or goals either.  When I got there, I found myself not getting a super personal word like I did last year, but it was still good.  What I got this year is what I equate to filling up the pitcher.  I simply enjoyed myself listening to so many good speakers,  singing praise, and visiting with so many good people there.  I didn't worry about if my blog was good enough or how many people it was reaching. I feel confident (at least right now) that I'm writing what God wants me to write and that it is reaching the people who need to see it at that moment.  In fact, I pray about that every time I post:  that my post will be powerful to one person, that it will be what one person needs to read or hear or see that day.  And I pray that I can take myself out of it.  Let my words not be about how many likes or comments I get, but about reaching one person.  Even if I never know who that is.

What I found this year at Declare is a connection to people.  I reached out to people.  People reached out to me.  I reconnected with people I met last year.  I made new friends.  I prayed for people, and even had some pray for me.  It was also about my connection to God.  I feel like I filled up my pitcher this year.  Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are thirsty, and drink of the living water."  And that's what I did.  I drank up His living water.  I filled myself up with His Word and His goodness so that I could, in turn, pour it back out to the people around me and the people who I touch through my blog.  My reflection on Declare this year is that my pitcher is full of God's goodness and love.  I want to return that to the people He has placed in my life.

Thank you for being one of those people!  Thank you for taking the time to click on my link and read my words.  I pray that my words will somehow bless you today.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hope Prevails (Book Review)

This is my friend, Michelle.  

I had the joy of meeting her last year and reconnecting with her again this year.  She and I were in the same group last year at The Declare Conference.  I felt like we connected immediately, and we kept in touch off and on through social media.  What a pleasure and honor it was to be part of her book launch team.  

Hope Prevails is an amazing book.  Michelle is a certified neuropsychologist, and she is licensed to know how to deal with depression.  However, this book is unlike any other.  She fills every page with her own personal struggles of dealing with depression and numerous Scripture references.  Although my heart breaks for her in all that she and her family have gone through, I also find myself cheering for her as she step-by-step talks about how she recovered.  I absolutely love that this book is intricately tied to God's Word.  Not just one or two references per chapter, but one paragraph may have eight to ten references in it.  

Depression is a tool of the enemy.  He has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  He wants to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identities.  He does this by getting inside our heads and twisting everything around.  He makes us doubt our selves and question our worth.  He feeds on our personal anxieties and insecurities.  

But it is not true.  Michelle testifies throughout the pages that this is false.  God's Word says time and time again in many different formats how He loves us because He made us.  We can't earn it, and we can't lose it either.  Nothing we ever do can make God love us more than He already does...and nothing we ever do can make God love us less than He already does either.  

In Isaiah 54:17, we learn that "No weapon formed against us shall prevail."  And that includes the weapon of depression.  The enemy cannot use against us what we have surrendered to God.  When we start taking every thought captive and offering it up to God, the enemy begins to lose his power over us.  When we get God's thoughts and words firmly in our heads, we are filled with light and truth.  

Now to be clear, I am not saying that your days will get any easier.  I believe that they can and will over time, but it might be so gradual that it is hard to see.  Or the enemy may try even harder to pull you down once you start fighting back.  I admit that this is not an area where I have struggled, but I see hurting people all around me.  Beautiful people (of all ages) who are wrapped up in lies about themselves and cannot see themselves as God created them.  

There are two major themes that run throughout this book.  1). You are not alone.  God is always with you, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid or discouraged because He is with you (Joshua 1:9).  2).  Hope prevails.  Even in the darkest valley, you do not need to fear (Psalm 23:4). Our hope is in Jesus Christ, and that will prevail over anything else.  Keep your eyes fixed on Him because He is the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1). 

In addition to the personal trials as well as the strong ties to Biblical truth, the end of each chapter has a prescription for steps you can take to overcome the darkness and depression as well as a personal prayer.  It is even followed by several songs that helped Michelle overcome her struggles and may benefit you as well.  Whether you are struggling with depression or you love someone who is, I believe this book is powerful to help on many levels.  I highly recommend this book; I think it will be life-changing.

I want to leave you with a few words from the author herself.  

“I’m writing today from where I stand, the other side of depression’s valley. I encourage you to persevere. You will not always feel this way. There are brighter days ahead...

I’ve written this book to offer hope. In the midst of my battle, hope was elusive. I wasn’t sure I would survive. Actually, I wasn’t sure I wanted to survive. But hope—the belief in a purpose, the belief in something better—can make all the difference..."

Hope Prevails!

The opinions in this post are my own, and I have in no way been compensated for writing this review.