Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'll Be Brief: Giveaways

I wasn't going to post today, but I wanted to let you know of two giveaways that you might be interested in!  (If you are looking for the Soli Deo Gloria Link-up, it's the next post down, or click here)

First, at fellow "31 Days" blogger, Lisa Smith's Glad Chatter:

You could win (drumroll, please)

  • a $25 gift certificate to Ashley's Etsy shop, where she has some amazing jewelry pieces.  Click here to check out her shop.
  • And, then, after you see the beautiful baubles, click here to get the details on how to enter!

You could win (another drumroll)
  • A signed copy of Home Ec-101, which looks like this:DSC07181.JPG.jpg
  • To win this book, please click here for details on how to enter!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 31: Friendship, Sisterhood and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's Day 31. I kinda can't believe it.  May 31st is finally here and this is the last post of the series.  It's been exhilarating, tiring, gratifying, hard, refining, and amazing.  For those of you whom I've met just because of this series, I hope you'll continue on the journey of walking through life with me.  Now that I don't have to blog every.single.day, I will have time to get to knowYOU better.  That is exciting.

Jen FinalI can't think of a more perfect day to end this, on a Tuesday, surrounded by my Soli Deo Gloria sisters.  I have been so grateful for your support and your encouragement. I'm not sure I could have done it without you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  If you choose to leave a comment today, I would love to know how I could have made the series better.  I'm planning to use parts of what I have written here for the class I'm teaching at my church in the fall.  I would cherish your feedback.  Any help would be amazing.

Which brings me to the final day's thought about hearing God's voice:  There is a reason why God has made us social creatures.  There is a reason why we live in communities.  He has given us the gift of friendship and fellowship and I believe that those relationships can bring so much fruit into our own individual lives.  I believe that our communities can enable us to better hear God's voice in our own individual lives.

Through the power of God:

We sharpen each other.
We confirm each other.
We affirm each other.
We can hold each other accountable.
We are strength in the face of weakness and devastation.
We are tangible examples of God's love.
We are forgivers.
We are helpers.
We are interceders.

God works through us every day to reach out and touch someone else who needs it.  His glory and character can be revealed through us -- our testimony and witness is a powerful tribute to the awesome God that has created us.

There is a reason Jesus says,

"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them."
Matthew 18:20
I believe that Jesus is with us when we are by ourselves. I simply think that in this verse He encourages us to form relationships and to trust that He is working within them to enrich us and His people.

Challenge:  Think about how community influences your life.  Where is God leading you to grow?  Or, in some cases, focus more on one than another for a season?

Day 30: Filters

Today, I'm also guest posting over at a fellow SDG sister's blog -- Melanie at Our Journey Home!  Would love for those of you that don't know her to stop by her amazing blog.  Click here for my post.

Jen Final
Yesterday, as I was vacuuming up my kitchen floor, the sound of my floor cleaning machine (how I wish it didn't need me to actually operate it!) was a bit different.  Immediately, I realized that I had forgotten to put the filter in it so that it would keep all those crumbs and such from going wherever they weren't supposed to go.

And I thought, it is the same way with us -- we need a filter.  Every day we are bombarded with messages.  Some are edifying and some are detrimental, but we need to have a way to sift these voices so that we know whether or not they are based in truth.

For example, if I read about the importance of daily Bible reading when I'm five days behind in my Bible in One Year, I will probably feel convicted.  At that point, with me, I then turn conviction (a nudging of the Holy Spirit to spur me on to better choices) into condemnation.  The original message from God is:  I love you and I want you to know this.  I want you to have my Word as a tool and as a comfort.  The messages that usually follow either from myself or the enemy say this:  You are such a slacker. I can't believe you can't keep up with this.  I can keep the truth of the original message and see what God is saying and let the other stuff just fall through, not touching my soul and not warping my mind.

Challenge:  What filters do you already have in place?  Where do you need to place a filter in your life?  What examples can you share with us?

Be sure and come back tonight thru Wednesday evening for Soli Deo Gloria.  We'd love to have you link up and share!

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 29: You

Jen Final

Sometimes, I think God didn't really know what He was doing when He created me.  I look at all my weaknesses.  I see all my failures.  I see how I try and try and try to be better, and yet, I still fall short.  I still wrap my heart around things that are not of Him. I still doubt His promises sometimes.  I still let fear and pride creep in and suffocate the good things He has planted.

And yet, sometimes, when my eyes are open and my heart is ready to receive, I realize that God knew that I would struggle with all this stuff and He still chose to give me life.  He still chose to love me... despite.  And in fact, I think He finds joy in the process of redemption, as well as the redemption itself, for in the process, He finds me clinging to Him, to His Word, to His strength.  And even with all my scars and sins and pitfalls, He still calls me to be His friend.  He still sends me out into the field to work.  He still gives me good gifts.  He still allows me to hear His voice.

And you, sweet one.  It's the same thing for you.

Challenge:  Write out ten things that are really good about yourself -- the gifts that He has given you, the strongholds you've overcome, the things that make you unique.  Thank God for those things and smile at your progress.

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Day 28: The Breath is Free

Jen FinalSometimes I need to hear Him in a jiffy -- in an emergency situation, or when I'm about to completely blow my top, or when I have to make a big decision fast.  But of course when there is all this pressure, my head is foggy, my stomach aches, and I feel as though I am in a desperate panic.  Not ideal conditions for hearing from God.  

And yet He has given me a gift to use in such situations:  breath.  

Just recently, I've noticed my youngest start to have a lot of anxiety about moving on to kindergarten next year.  Her temper has been short, her words loud, her manner self-protecting.  And so, when she starts to get in a tizzy, I started telling her "1, 2, 3, Breathe."  Clearly, I knew that breath can be restoring and healing and centering, but of course it didn't occur to me (because I can be a bit dense at times) for me to do the same thing during these days of high-stress until I went to yoga on Tuesday.  

I can't remember my teacher's exact words, but this is what I took away from it:

The breath is free.
Breathe in everything that you need.
Breathe out everything you don't.

And so, as I stood there on my mat, I asked God to be Lord of my breath.  That I would breathe in deeply the gifts of the Holy Spirit and breathe out all of my short-fused anger, my impatience, my stress, my own anxiety.  All for free, this amazing grace-filled gift from God, can calm my soul so that I can more readily hear the sound of His voice so that He might be Lord of my decisions and Director of my paths.

Challenge:  My own challenge with this is actually remembering to breathe.  What can you do to help remember to breathe in the Holy Spirit's gifts?

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 27: Trying Your Best

Jen Final 
I have tried my best to find You --
don't let me wander from Your commands.
Psalm 119: 10

It brings me immeasurable amounts of comfort to know that God does not expect me to be perfect.  He just wants my best.  Sometimes my best is studying His Word, being a servant unto others, and praying daily for my children.

Other times, my best is making it through the day.

I find peace in the fact that often, even though I fall far short of my own expectations, God knows I'm trying, that I'm imperfect, and I will always be.  And yet...

He loves me still.

And this applies to listening to His Voice.  We will not always get it right and not for lack of trying.  God knows that things get in the way of hearing Him, and thus, there is grace to make up the difference.  We are not expected to get by on our own strength alone.  We can cry out "don't let me wander!" and ask Him for rescue, for guidance, for wisdom, for strength.

Challenge:  Give yourself some grace.

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 26: Are You Willing?

Have you ever been in the position where you hear God loud and clear and yet, you just aren't quite willing to move in the direction that He has asked you to move?

Or maybe, you decide to not listen so intently so you can feign innocence and declare that you just missed the memo?

Jen FinalI've had experiences with both scenarios.  But, because I am a rule-follower at heart and really hate to disappoint, I finally come around and do what He wants me to do.

But recently, I haven't been obeying just because I'm afraid of consequences or disappointing God.  I'm obeying because I genuinely trust that He knows what He's doing.  And, honestly, obedience has become an act of pleasing because I love Him and not because I'm afraid of being ousted from the family.

It's taken me a long time to get to this point.  And, there are times I still slip back into old thought patterns, but I'm starting to see the positives of going...willingly.  With a smile.  With joy.  With trust.  With hope.

Challenge:  Evaluate your state of willingness.  Examine the heart behind your current state.

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 25: More than Motions

Jen Final
The truth is, the very hard truth is, that sometimes we can be doing everything right on the surface but still feel dead inside.  There can be so many different reasons for these feelings of nothingness.  For me, the nothingness-feeling comes from:


...and probably a myriad of other things that just aren't popping into my head right now at this late hour.  But, just like we talked about yesterday, feelings aren't Gospel Truth.  God is so much bigger than anything we could ever put on that list, so much so, that we can be radically free from the process of just going through the motions.

Just one more note before I leave you with a song, sometimes we go through the motions because we want to avoid uncovering pain, sorrow, depression, etc.  But, if we continue to let that remain stuffed down, the deadness inside will not go away.  It is in the offering up, despite the potential pain, that allows the fullness of life in.  God can use that pain (even if it is so unfathomable now) to bring this life more so than going through motions could ever elicit.

I hope this video brings encouragement.

Challenge:  Has there been a time in your life when you felt like you were just going through the motions?  How did you get out of it?  Please share in the comments for others to glimpse at the hope that awaits.  Are you currently in this state?  Are you willing to ask God to show you the root cause?

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 24: The Fallibility of Feelings & Soli Deo Gloria Party!

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria, whether it's your first time here or your 25th.  Basically, we are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  It's a fun party and I love hosting you here each week.  If you would like more information about this community, please click here.  Just a note:  Please don't feel that you have to visit every single person that links up.  We are all on a time budget.  That being said, I do invite you to pray and ask God which blogs to visit simply because there may be words for you left in that place or words that God has given you to share to those specific people.  Blessings to everyone!
Jen Final
Right now, I'm struggling with my feelings.  The feelings in the pit of my stomach that tell me:

You are not good enough.
You are not doing the right thing.
You are not worthy to rest.
You are not a good mother.
You are not a good writer.
You are doing this all wrong.

After a morning of these feelings, Hannah and I went on a run/bike ride.  At some point during the run, I had a moment of clarity:

None of these statements that had been running through my mind all morning contain hope.  They are absolute negatives with no room for light.  

Through faith and through the Word, I know that God wants me to press on to win the prize.  Those statements above?  They stop me in my tracks.  I know that He loves me.  Those statements above?  They are not words of love.  I know that He delights in me.  Those statements above?  They steal my joy.  Thus, I can draw the conclusion that those statements above are not God's voice.

I have the choice to turn off the broken record that resounds in my head when circumstances or even my own failings push the 'play' button.  I can shirk the negativity and press into His heart.  I can choose to see my mistakes through His eyes, instead of with the dismal perception of my own.

Challenge:  What statements run through your brain that you know are not of Him, and yet, they seem to grab hold and consume you?  How do you combat them?

Day 23: Psalm 23 Revisited

Jen Final
When I was little, my dad had this thing about us kids memorizing Psalm 23.  And then, when I grew older, the only time I really heard it was on movies when there was a funeral and the only part that I really heard was "Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."

For a long time, Psalm 23 was really dark.  When I typed my title "Day 23" today, though, all I could think about was Psalm 23.  I went back and re-read it.  Such hope!  Such freedom!  Such offerings from our God!  It was...refreshing.

Today, I would like you to ask God to help you read this psalm with fresh eyes.

The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD

Psalm 23, NLT

When I read this with fresh eyes today after church, I had just had the revelation that I have made busyness an idol in my life.  After repenting, I realized this:

He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.

Do you see it?  He lets us rest and THEN renews our strength.  I must make the choice to lie down so to let my soul be restored.  

Challenge:  This is what I have taken away from the psalm.  Will you read it with fresh eyes?  What do you see?  What does God whisper to you?  Please share in the comments.

Linking today with two very lovely ladies:

Laura for Playdates with God (because reading scripture with fresh eyes is a playdate) and

Michelle for Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday (and girls, I think I'll be using Psalm 23 for quite sometimes).

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 22: What Do You Believe?

Note to the readers:  The next ten posts may be a little different than the rest of the series.  I am thinking that there will be less teaching and more active engagement.  I hope you are blessed by them and that you feel comfortable interacting in the comments.
Jen Final

My sweet bloggy friend and fellow Soli Deo Gloria sister, Jodi Shaw, is an artist.  I recently asked her to do a 12x12 mixed media project for me, which is the inspiration for this post.  Here are two pictures I took of the project:

Profound, yes?  

What I believe is how I will live.

Do you believe that you will hear God's voice?  And, if so, how does that play out in your life?  How does it shape how you live?  If you don't believe you will hear it, what is the root of that unbelief?  What hinders you from opening yourself up to His voice?

Challenge:  I'm going to ask you to take a bit of a risk here.  I'm going to ask you to be vulnerable.  Instead of journalling or just thinking about these things in your head, I'm asking you to at least consider writing your answers in the comments.  Honestly, as much as journalling and thinking are good for you, it doesn't allow others to learn, commiserate, agree, be nourished, etc.

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 21: Who Said What?

Jen Final

"The Gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and they come to him.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.  They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice."  John 10: 3-5
At first, I was going to write about how I really struggle with this verse.  I was going to say that Jesus makes it all sound so easy to hear Him and to know that it is Him who is speaking to our hearts.  I was going to say that it is hard to hear Him over the din of the world and ourselves and those who oppose us.  The truth is that it can be, but God brought these stories to my mind to show me that I can guard against "mis-hearing" if I use the tools He has given me.

{1}  I was in college.  At the time, I was attending a non-denominational church where they would frequently allow people who had something to share to come up to the front to speak.  I had listened to the sermon and I had a great biblical and personal tie-in.  I just knew that I was supposed stand up and speak out words of truth to the congregation.  I stood up, asking to go to the front only to be turned away by the elder, saying that we simply didn't have enough time.  Of course, I was crushed.  Why would he not allow me to speak?  We hadn't really been all about ending on time before.  Were the words in my heart wrong?  And then, as I sat there, cheeks flaming red, I knew that my motives were not pure.  Sure, my message was biblical and true and heartfelt, but after further reflection, there was a motive that was not pure.  There was a boy in the congregation and, you know, I wanted him to notice how great I was.  I wanted him to see that I could hear the Lord and speak out His message.  My heart was about me, not about God.  I was in it for my glory, not His.  Had I examined my heart before I stood to speak the message, I would have stayed in my chair.  It was not God calling me to speak, but my own pride and need for acclamation.  What I took away from this experience, after many tears, was that I must check my motives before I act.  If I am operating in pure selfishness, even if there are possible favorable byproducts, it probably isn't' God.

{2}  In a few days, my friend is taking a trip.  She has some health problems and I was worried about her health and her being alone on this trip.  As I laid in bed that night, I thought of all the very logical reasons as to why she shouldn't go alone.  At first, I felt certain that God was prompting me to say something.  But then, in my gut, I felt all the fear that was motivating me to pursue all these logical thoughts, even though I know that God is bigger than my friend's health.  He's bigger than logic.  He's bigger than fear.  So, I asked Him to either confirm that I should speak out the logical reasons or if I should trust that God will provide during this time.  He gave me two scriptures, which I cannot remember now, that totally confirmed that He's on the job, that He would like me to engage in prayer for her while she's away, and that I could put my fear to rest.

{3}  I'm skipping the last story because frankly, you've probably heard it before here at Finding Heaven, and if not, the gist is this:  Impatience.  Because this girl wants answers and she wants them quick.  And so, I often forge ahead without waiting for any sort of confirmation at all.

Let's be real:  Even with tools, it can still be hard.  Sometimes we are wrong, but the hope is the fact that God knows we are going to make mistakes.  We are never going to get it right 100% of the time, no matter how hard we try.  And because of that, He promises to bring redemption, and grace, and a love that covers a multitude of mistakes.  Praise God for that!

Challenge:  Do you have something that continually gets in the way of hearing God?  I've listed pride, fear, and impatience.  Do you have something you can add to this list?

Fun news!  Tomorrow, we are going to start a new phase of this series. I haven't figured out all the details yet, but please come back and check it out!  Meanwhile...

Don't forget about these amazing authors of other "31 Days Closer to..." series: