Friday, February 27, 2015

4 Ideas To Help Ease The Nature Bug

Living in the city makes me think about nature more often. When I was a kid we lived in a little factory town that felt like the city. The train going by would rumble the house and all the older neighbors would keep an eye on my brother and I. Because we didn't have a very big yard or many trees for that matter, my parents would take us to the park or hiking in the woods. We even went up to Maine to purchase an Old Town canoe so we could check out wildlife from the water. Nature is calming and being by any moving body of water is where I find contentment.

If you live in the city like me and miss those woods, you want to find ways to get connected again. I have found simple ways to bring nature near me despite the sound of sirens in my ears and buildings close by. Here are some ideas:

1. Take Pictures with Your Phone of Nature: While I go on my 2 mile walk through the neighborhood I could be distracted by all the homes, cars, and asphalt. What I try to do is focus in on nature and find simple little plants or the way the light hits the trees lining the road. Once I have found a good specimen, I take a picture with my phone which I have with me. I have seen some pretty awesome looking weeds out there folks. We even have a park near by that I like to spend my time gazing at.

2. Get or Make a Bird Feeder & Fill it with Seed: While living up north, Chris and I found this awesome bird feeder that we could suction cup to the window. With its clear walls and roof you can see every movement of the birds that come by. It takes a while for them to get used to you being around to watch, so don't think it is a fail when you have to wait a couple weeks for some action. It also takes them a while for them to find it. Since living here we have seen a lot of beautiful birds and the squirrels as well. Sadly for them, they can't get to the feeder at all. Having the birds come and make all their songs really makes me feel like I am close to nature.

3. Visit a Nursery & Purchase Easy Care Plants: For the longest time, even when we lived in a somewhat nature setting, I wanted to have plants in the house. I think it is an affect of living where it is cold and brown most of the year, but besides that it is also good to have something in the house that cleans the air. I have yet to have a collection, but I am working on the one plant I have so far to see how I am at maintaining foliage.

4. Visit a Botanical Garden or Walk a Trail on the Weekend: Most of the time we all don't really have time to be outside anyways and on the weekends, city or country, we can spend time in nature somewhere. When spring comes I am thinking of getting a membership at Longwood Gardens so that I can get my fix of nature on the weekends. I have only been there in the winter so I am looking forward to see what it is like outside soon! If you want to do something free, find an old railroad trail or a wildlife refuge outside of town. Even taking a walk in the city park can help with that nature fix.

These photos that I have posted are from our visit in Austin last week and it was good to get outside and walk a trail for old times sake. We actually didn't get far on the trail because our friend Phil and I kept stopping to take a picture of random leaves and rocks. Anyways, don't ever think that you are stuck living in complete city life if you are used to the country. There are ways to stay positive about our situations. You just have to think outside your town house or small apartment.

Happy Nature Hunting!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

3 Ways to Get Consistent in Devotions

I will be the first to tell you that I fall into routines. I will also be the first to tell you that I fall out of sync with those routines and don't realize it till I am knee deep in bad habits or laziness. When it comes time for spending time with God and getting to know more about His character, I find it hard to really find a good moment or even concentrate.

In keeping with honesty, I have been through two scenarios. I have been the working lady who gets up at 5 a.m. just to roll out of bed and make it out the door with some sort of weird lunch (if that) for work. Then there is the other scene where I am a house wife who can eat her breakfast when she wishes. Think what you want of my lifestyle, but this is not the point. The point here is that no matter how busy or not busy we are, we get distracted. We forget to take the time to spend time with God.

We blame it on being tired after working a hard day or on just having to get that laundry done before heading out to the Post Office. We stare at our computers or phones watching surreal lives go by online for hours, not really paying attention. Yet, we just don't have time for God.

Ok, before you start thinking I am sending you a guilt trip, let's get this straight. This all is just a wake up call for you and me. We shouldn't feel like we have to hurry up and get our God time in. Our hearts don't need to feel guilty when we come before God after hours, days, and years of neglect. Personally, I have found that guilt just gets in the way of actually experiencing what God has to offer.

So here are a few things to get you motivated about doing those devotions:

1. Make a List of Questions for God: Sometimes it just takes simple moments to form a relationship. When you get to know someone, you generally ask them questions. The more you ask, the more you find out if they are someone you want to get to know better. The same goes for getting to know God. Luckily, you can know the end of the story, He is captivating and dependable. It sounds elementary to make a list, but it helps to remember what you are looking for while searching through the Bible for answers. Yes, I am saying that the Bible is one way that God communicates.

2. Join a Group of Other Bible Searchers: One way that really helped me to be motivated about studying the Bible and communicating with God, was joining a group of other God seekers. By being consistent with going to the meetings I became consistent in thinking of God. Going helped me learn about studying and that it can be a fun endeavor full of treasures. I didn't have to just hear my own thoughts, I could listen to what other people had to say about their searches and experiences. It made it all real.

3. Just Ask Him For Help: Last but definitely NOT least, we can ask God for help through the relationship. He has a commitment with us and is not about to leave without some kind of sign from us. If we simply ask Him to fill our hearts with that desire to cultivate something with Him, He comes through. I know for myself I get impatient. I want the relationship to be so deep from the get go. Nope, it doesn't always work that way. I have found that God will ease you into it, so that it becomes so a part of your life that next thing you know... you are sitting there with God in the quiet. Not saying anything. Just chillin'. :)

So before you feel like giving up on the whole idea or even maybe a New Year's resolution, just take a moment to make the idea of a relationship with God real. Make it practical and applicable to your life. Draw it out of yourself and lay it down on the table if you have to. Visualize, listen, sing it, whatever you have to do. I am only suggesting this because the Friend that I have gotten to know, Jesus, He has made my life so meaningful. He has taken me out of the darkness of my thoughts and into the sunshine of real living. Ask my friends. They will back me up on this one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Travels: Our Trip to TEXAS!

It has been slow going trying to get my iPhone pictures onto my computer, but I really just wanted to share with you all our experience in Texas through them. If you follow me in Instagram, you will have seen most of these already but at least I can give a little narrative.

We arrived in Dallas enjoying the warmth and were able to meet up with our good friends from Massachusetts, Phil and Heather, who picked us up. We spent the first day eating chips, salsa, and tacos. There was a little detour for bubble tea where Chris lost at Jenga, as you can tell from the below photo of him putting his head back in defeat. Heather was so kind as to document it nicely. :)

 Towards the evening we headed to the church where Phil Wickham was going to be performing and recording his 3rd singalong. We waiting a couple of hours and were able to get some really fine seats among the thousands of fans. The experience was like no other and it was cool to be a part of the album. The very end of the evening everyone was really getting into the music, so when Phil had to play over some songs again for the recording it went without a hitch and was a lot of fun. So glad we flew to another state just to hear everyone praising God together. :)

The next day we were in Austin where Heather showed us around her hometown. We went to Callahan's General Store where we got to see real cowboy stuff. Hats, boots, whips, you name it. They even had a chicken that usually walks around in the store, but that day he was confined to the cage. Oh, and I tried on cowgirl boots. Heather talked me into it and, seriously, I wanted to buy them. But real cowgirl boots you need to budget for so I had to walk away.

For lunch we had more TEXMEX at Chuy's which is a pretty popular place with lots of awesome decor. I tried my best to depict how it looked there. Lots of different decor in different rooms. We ate their twice while down in Texas and both times we sat in the room with all the tire rims on the ceiling. Mmm... chips and salsa. :)

On our last day we saw several things, but one of the places we went to was the state capitol. Texan's go all out with their detail. The Lone Star was EVERYWHERE in that place. This was actually the first time I have been in a state capitol. Pretty sad, but hey at least I have been in the USA capitol. That has to count for something!

Well that about sums up our trip. It was cool to have friends with us to not only enjoy a new place but also to show us around the parts of Texas that aren't as touristy as well. We got to go to the local grocery store, Chris went to several music stores, a park with a nice walking path by the creek which is called the Green Belt, and stay at a Texan home. I don't have any tips for traveling, and I should. Maybe if I go on a couple more trips to other states I will have something more tangible to call, Travel Tips... oooooOOOO. 

Thanks again Heather and Phil for such a GOOD time. Can't wait visit there again!

Monday, February 23, 2015

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Click the link above to follow me on Bloglovin'! What is Bloglovin'? It is a site that allows you to browse blogs with ease all in one place. By following me, you will be notified when I have a new post up. I am categorized under Lifestyle as well. :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Holy Spirit, Accepted or Denied.

I wonder sometimes why the Holy Spirit isn't discussed more often. I know that a while ago I discussed my discovery in understanding His presence and purpose. Amazement filled me with how humble He makes Himself known. No matter how powerful and sovereign the Godhead is, They know Their purpose. At the same time I feel it is important to recognize the Holy Spirit's significance in our lives. Understanding when He is near and knowing what He can do, makes God so real and close.

In Hebrews, it mentions the Holy Spirit actually speaking.

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days... I will put My laws in their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.

He continues with, Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

This is a promise that will define those who follow Christ. What sobered me, though, were the words I found later in the text.

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

To put things into context, these words were written for the Hebrew Christians of the time. They were persecuted for believing in Christ and at the same time still had the laws of Moses engrained in their souls. The writer made a comparison in order to show the importance of what some could be denying if they walked away from what God was offering. He mentioned how if someone disobeyed one of the laws of Moses, death was the punishment. He then went to say that if the punishment was so great for just walking away from the laws of Moses, how much greater the punishment was for disrespecting the Godhead by making Christ's death of no meaning.

The discussion wasn't about keeping laws, it was about claiming to be followers of God but disrespecting Him by denying His gift. It sounds contradictory right? I mean, the Holy Spirit spoke earlier in the passage about putting His laws in our hearts. What I have found is that God is wanting us to get our priorities straight. He does not want us to omit the laws, He just wants us recognize what He has done for us. Then once we let our souls embrace this realization, we can let the Spirit do His work. Those laws will be so engrained into our hearts and minds that we won't know what hit us. It will take another soul approaching us, looking for Christ, for us to realize what has transformed us.

There is so much power in letting the Holy Spirit into our lives. I have seen it break people free from habits, empowered others to speak openly about their struggles, and refresh the hearts of those who have been at it in Christianity for a while.

Yesterday I was listening to My Soul Longs For You sung by Jesus Culture and it compelled me to really ponder the Holy Spirit. Strangely, it extended into today where I was reading the words about the Holy Spirit. When His presence rains, it pours! I was going to share the song here, but I found another one that anyone could use as a prayer. The lyrics are below if you have a hard time understanding. :)

Break me open 
God in motion 
Light my world with 
Fire and rain (2x)

Can You feel my heart 
As I reach for You? (6x)

God in motion 
Light my world with 
Fire and rain 

Break me open 
God in motion 
Light my world with 
Fire and rain 

I can feel Your heart 
As You reach for me (4x)

*bolded text taken from Hebrews 10*

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wisdom, Where Can It Be?

Self reflection is a place I go frequently. Like a thorn in my side it pokes and prods till I come out with some analysis of my spirit. If I were to be productive with this portion of my life I would take the reflection and work for the better, but more often than not I beat myself up. Until my self esteem is pulp in my trembling hands.

A few days ago I was going through this moment with myself. I was cringing thinking about my behavior, becoming slightly depressed because I just could not get a handle on myself. I felt like I had ruined my reputation. Ya, I pretty much exaggerated my perspective to the point that I called myself outrageous and wanted to hide forever.

I was officially declaring myself a certain way. Limits. Hopelessness. No progression. A road that I was going, but not a way that God wanted me to go fortunately. After spending a day in personal anguish God was able to get through to my heart and speak simple words. Like a lightening bolt, I knew where I had gone wrong. It wasn't how I acted, it wasn't what I was concocting in my mind, it was the fact that I had not consulted my Savior before walking into my fears. I realized in that moment that I had not talked with God.

Humbled, I had courage again. I told myself then that I should have asked for His guidance. God made it quite plain to me that where I had failed, was before I even made a fool of myself. But what gives me greater hope is that when asking God for guidance, I don't need to figure out the logistics. All I have to do is depend upon Him. With my words, actions, reactions, and more. He knows where I am weakest.

The craziest thing is that when I let God guide me, His glory can shine through! When I completely submit my heart to Him, He is allowed to reach out to those in need. All my fears that I previously experienced only deterred my communion with Him. It only prevented me from working with and through Him to continue the work of bringing hearts to Him!

Last week I spoke about virtue and how it has a similar value to wisdom. Both are worth far more than rubies and if wisdom is not something that I can learn or gain on my own, would it be true that virtue is gained by similar pattern?

Here is where God speaks and puts us into place with wisdom:

Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened?

God is making it clear that He is the one that knows wisdom. We have no idea.

But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, "IT is not in me"; and the sea says, "It is not with me." It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price....

... God understands its way, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens, to establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt, then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out. 

And to man He said, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding."

We cannot define wisdom. We cannot determine where understanding falls. In order to understand we need to fear the Lord. What does this mean to me? Yes, I must depend upon Him. I must ask for guidance so that I can "depart from evil." What does it mean to "depart from evil?"

You know what it's like to make a complete fool of yourself. You know what it is like to get angry. You know what it is like to be sinful. We all know what it is like to depart from God, so He should be our dependence in departing in the opposite direction. Away from evil.

*Bolded Text: Job 28 & 38*
**pictures taken in Austin, TX**

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Self Discovery Through Scrapbooking

Where does God put His signature on each of us, His design? I like to think it is in the gifts that He gives to each of us. Those abilities we have that give us satisfying enjoyment and places we know we succeed. But what about those times we don't know the signature? What about the moments we question whether we really have it or not.

I have been in and out of doubt with my God given signatures. One minute I cannot contain the excitement I feel when really excelling at something and the next I am complaining that I am not doing it well enough. That I am just not as good as the next person at doing it. Or other times I get real snub about my abilities and end up falling flat on my face. This is where I just need a little kick in the pants or some nudging by my heavenly Father. I just have it all wrong.

I have been meaning to do something with my photography. I have played the snub card, fallen flat on my face, hated it, LOVED it, and held on for dear life. I have a relationship with the gift God gave me that is like having a friend that doesn't leave, no matter how fickle I am. That is what a signature does to you. Anyways, I started to acquire some Project Life supplies in order to print out my photos and put them in an album for safe keeping.

Once I made the prints and sat down on the floor to start the overwhelming task of getting these photos in the book, I started to experience several new perspectives.

1. Experiencing Feelings I Only Had for Childhood Photos: When I was a kid I would go through the photos my mom had in albums and look at how small my brother and I were. I would stare at the pictures of my parents before we existed, like they were other people. I would take in the moments in each picture of my relatives and how they hugged me. I enjoyed the smiling faces and love. I liked the happiness I saw, even though I knew that life isn't or wasn't easy. There is something different about holding a photo in your hand or seeing it in an album versus on a computer screen. An album of photos is the medium I grew up with. I suddenly had an attachment to the moments in the photos, not just the people.

2. Experiencing Excitement in Photographing Future Children: We have so many pictures of our neices that I just cannot put down. Getting them all organized and placed in an album made me realize how much I have actually documented their everyday life. More than anyone elses' at this point in time. It gives me joy seeing the natural flow of innocence and happiness in each image. I never knew that I was capturing how children really were until I had them in my hand. I think that I will have lots of fun with it in the future, like I do now.

3. Experiencing Satisfaction, Enough to Keep the Album Simple: Feeling satisfied with your own work is an awesome feeling. No matter at what point you are in the journey, if you are satisfied with what you produce through images, it makes the scrapbooking and printing process that much more enjoyable. I unfortunately didn't realize this until AFTER I printed my images. I was some what happy, but not till I had those images in my hands did I realize what I had. In turn it made it easy for me to realize that I didn't have to buy a bunch of stickers if I didn't want to (nothing wrong with stickers by the way), I could just let the pictures speak for themselves. I am a whole lot better at taking a picture than figuring out all the awesome crafty stuff that people come up with for albums. I embraced my abilities and let go of the expectations.

In the end the whole process has made me really appreciate my work and see that God has given me something special that I can share with others. Trying new things can help us discover what God has given to us. Oddly enough, something as simple as scrapbooking has taught me to just be me and enjoy what I have been given. I don't need to do what other people do, I just have to enjoy what I am good at.

I hope that whatever hobby or activity you try, enhances your insight into what you were ultimately designed to do and be satisfied. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Song Selection Series: How Deep The Father's Love

In contemplating the things that I spend time doing or enjoying, I could not escape the world of music. When I was a teen (in the late 90s) I would seal myself off from the world, in my room, and listen to my small stereo. Back then the radio only played secular tunes and very rarely played something by Amy Grant that was sorta Christian. If I wasn't listening to the radio I was playing Christian CDs by Cindy Morgan or Jaci Velasquez. I had most every album by them. Music moved my heart, for the good and bad.

When I was in college, I did assignments while listening to Coldplay or other heavy stuff. It was like a quick fix for my emotionally deep self. I wrote articles, poetry, and even blog posts (the blog world was just evolving) to the sounds of what the world had to offer. Deep down I knew that all of it was moving me in ways that took me on a downward spiral. I can't speak for anyone else when I say that spiritually the music of the "secular" domain made things rather depressing.

This isn't to say that there aren't songs in regular pop culture that aren't uplifting, I just was not drawn to them. So in an attempt to free my soul from this downward spike, I made myself listen to 90% Christian music. I became intentional about it, but at the same time would not block my ears if the radio was on in a setting I could not control. I had to make myself make choices in the midst of real life, instead of avoiding.

I was intentional about music when I would take walks, run on the treadmill at the gym, or was just writing a little blurb about my thoughts. Let me tell you, running to Christian music is not easy. Sometimes it makes you too relaxed or the beat just isn't peppy enough. So, I became intentional about my feelings towards music. I would listen to slow beat stuff while running 5 miles an hour on a treadmill in a stuffy, crowded gym. I found the rhythm and found that my heart would steady itself, surprisingly. Like a peaceful jaunt in the park. If I closed my eyes for just a moment I would be taken away from the 10 TV screens and smelly odors. It actually made me run longer.

At this point in my life I still find myself drawn to secular folk or instrumental tunes. Coldplay still resonates in my earbuds from time to time. But what really gets me at the end of the day is a good hymn. Growing up, hymns were only sung in church to weird rhythms and with small amounts of feeling. Today, there are so many artists who remix hymns and take you to when they were written. You feel the intent, struggle, survival, and praise. You feel the closeness the original poet had with God. Gives me the chills.

I am sharing a link here to a hymn called "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" that was rearranged by King's Kaleidoscope and retitled "How Deep". I could sense God's anguish in being separated from Christ as He died for us. I could sense all that the Godhead gave up just so that we could have eternal life, undeserved. Here are the words:

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How I Viewed Virtue, Then Changed My Mind

Virtue. I imagined a delicate woman standing high above the rest with flowing light hair and a glowing complexion. Her dress flowed in the gentle wind, all pearly white and bright. Her gaze void of any anger and well maybe just expressionless. Contented just to stand there looking radiant, is what I pictured.

I probably overly exaggerated my depiction. I don't ever really see a woman and think, "oh she is virtuous no doubt!" What makes this accurate is the way I viewed virtue, in an abstract sense. It looked exactly like I just visually portrayed. I made it look like a doll left to take the breeze with brightness. Let me explain where I went wrong...

I was in the typical chapter of Proverbs looking at the virtuous woman. I had already made preconceived ideas, but I was determined to figure out how to become this woman. Why I thought it was a goal to become expressionless, I don't know. It was probably just because it was in the Bible and with a bunch of wise words. 

In the past couple of years I have gotten used to looking up words in my Webster Dictonary app. Verbs, adjectives, nouns, even names. So I looked up the word "virtuous." I was unashamedly surprised. 

Here are the definitions I was given: morally good, potent, efficacious, honest, and honorable. 

What does potent and efficacious even mean? I looked those up as well. (For all you vocab gurus please don't mock, my curiousity should be enough) 

Potent: having force, authority, or influence
Efficacious: having power to produce a desired effect

I then looked up the meaning of virtuous in Hebrew:

Chayil: strength, an army, a force (men, means, other resources), comes from the Hebrew root: Chuwl, which means to writhe in pain and sorrowful

Ok so I had the English and Hebrew definitions and roots, I then took to synonyms. 

Valor: courage/bravery, strength of mind/spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness

BAM! This is the kind of woman that I wanted to be! Courageous. Firm in mind. Influencial. Having authority. Suddenly this virtuous woman seemed more than unattainable, she was like a queen ruling a country with power, poise, and determination. All who listened to her did so in fear, even when her crown was set aside. She got down and dirty in order to conquer land. Even sorrowfully. She had means to be influencial. Gifts. She was more than radiating light and tranquility. She had feelings that moved armies and established the strength to keep her mind steady in dangerous encounters. 

God isn't calling me, or any woman, to sit pretty. Ya, He knows He made us to be beautiful and alluring creatures, but He also created us to be powerful. We multi-task constantly and get deep in relationships. We were also designed to carry humanity in our womb, bare it into the cold world, and then present it fearlessly. Despite circulating advice and our own limitations we raise humanity. 

What I have learned is that God has called us to be brave, powerful, influencial, and strong in our spirit. How do we obtain this character trait? Ya, I wondered that and became overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility. I know my limitations. I know my innate desire is to fear, fumble, and fluctuate in my feelings. 

Who can find a virtuous wife (woman)? For her worth is far above rubies.

That last part doesn't appear to be an answer at first glance, but if you look deeper it is. I saw the word rubies and wanted to know what it meant to be worth more than rubies. I also wanted to know the worth of a ruby. Before I get going on a different topic, I am going to share something that changed my overwhelmed heart into resolution. 

There aren't many places in the Bible where it talks about rubies. Mostly in Proverbs the gemstone is brought up, but I want show you where it was found in Job.

No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies.

Here is mentioned a second time that rubies are worth less than something else. What is that something else here? Wisdom. Maybe I am taking a leap, but for some reason this made me put virtue and wisdom side by side. Two powerful traits that seem unattainable and are worth more than rubies. 

Later on I will be discussing how one obtains wisdom, which is strikingly similar to obtaining virtue. Man, this post was long! I hope you made it through. :)