Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Necessary Start

Start by doing what’s necessary; 
then do what’s possible; 
and suddenly you are doing the impossible. 

-Saint Francis of Assisi

Start loving, start forgiving, start planting. Start looking for Grace. Start reading a really good book, start learning something new, start looking for your 'even places'. Start walking, start breathing in the good things, start smelling the roses. Start living, start giving. Start writing letters, start reaching out. Start moving on from the past, start recovery. Start listening to music, start watching the birds, start looking for things that make you smile. Start dreaming, start appreciating the little things, start enjoying a new hobby. Start acknowledging what can't be changed, start a new chapter in life. Start finishing that project. Start involving others in your life, start keeping a record of graces. Start practicing gratefulness, start resisting the devil and the doom that brings you down. Start taking a risk. Start being kind to yourself, start being kind to others. Start minding what matters. Start declaring your love, start appreciating, start considering more those who you love best.

Start with one step, start another. Start today.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Step of Consistency - Find Your Even Place Part II

A few weeks ago, I shared a photo similar to this one that said, "A Step of Clarity". With the photo, I wrote about us finding clarity in the midst of big changes in our life and in finding our 'even place'. "My foot standeth in an even place" -Psalm 26:11. I found it helpful to STOP doing some things that were weighing me down personally and used the
example of limiting e-mail subscriptions that were cluttering up my Inbox. Clearing some space, even in an e-mail Inbox, helped me breathe a bit easier because I eliminated some distractions.

This week, I'm sharing "A Step of Consistency". "Look and Clear 3" has been my theme recently and I cannot even tell you how beneficial it has been!! Instead of being overwhelmed by a long 'To-Do' list, I look for 3 things that need to be done. If I'm in the bathroom getting ready for the morning, instead of fretting over finding time to thoroughly clean it, I pick 3 things that need to be done which varies from day to day. Clean off the counter, sweep, and throw away trash. Another day it was 3 other things and in a few days, I noticed a big difference and saw progress. The same goes for any other room in the house. Instead of trying to do it all (which is my tendency), I do a little bit each day when I'm able. I've been thinking in "3's" and it really doesn't take much time at all to "Look and Clear 3". When I'm on my e-mail site, I write 3 e-mails, and delete 3. While on Facebook, I read 3 articles I have saved, delete them, then move on about my day.

I don't always have time to 'clear 3', but when I do, it makes a big difference. It has really helped me find an 'even place' in keeping things balanced. If you're feeling overwhelmed by many tasks, try the 'Look and Clear 3' method and see if that makes a difference.

This past week, I was trying to think of my next post in the "Even Place" series but nothing would come to me. I felt it was a 'sign' that I wasn't quite ready to move on to the next phase and that I needed to work on the first 2 steps a bit more.

Step 1 - Clarity/Stop/Clear Space and Breath --I'm still clearing things out of my e-mail Inbox. I no longer have 30 or more e-mails waiting for me that, really, I just don't have time to read. Information overload is what it was. I'm still unsubscribing as I see the need and it's been quite liberating to let them go. All the recipe e-mails? Gone. My husband and dad are pretty much "meat and potato" kind of guys so anything 'fancy' I didn't even need to read. Jonathan is good with pretty much whatever...except okra. Never ok with okra. All the exercise advice? Gone. I am sticking to a walk-at-home DVD program that I actually enjoy. All the DIY updates? Gone. Forget it. I know I don't have the time or energy for all that. I release all that into the air and feel free --or something like that.  

Step 2- Consistency/Look/Clear 3 --This is my newest step. Mercy, but that has been a huge stress relief. The update is this: I'm still lookin' and I'm still clearin' 3 and I really **do** notice progress. And I **soooo** love progress. I am an addicted 'List Maker" after all. Jonathan noted it helps him as well in keeping things tidy in his room and the downstairs bathroom which he cleans. It even helps with work needed to be done with the yard/flowers/birds.
Clothes and books headed out the door.
Since the Look and Clear 3 method makes things manageable in all areas of work, I just realized I haven't made a long "To-Do" list in WEEKS! Yay for me!
So maybe I don't have Step 3 figured out yet, but there's no need to rush. This journey of finding an "even place" is going to take some time. I was STUCK in not knowing what I needed to do to move forward in eliminating things that just felt 'heavy' in life. Too much stuff. Too much information overload. Too much stressing over it all. The first thing I noticed wasn't even --things-- but my overloaded e-mail Inbox. Maybe that's not your first step in finding balance. For me, it started to clear my head and got my engine going, so to speak, of "eliminating" the not-needed. Step 3 will come to me when it's time. The right time.

P.S. Check out my new page, "Summer Graces in June"

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Measure of Faith

My friend Michelle and I have a special bond that sometimes we think we share the same brain. We both grew up as missionary kids and we understand what it's like to feel 'different'. We have the same doubts about ourselves and struggles. She and I go back and forth in e-mails sharing different things God shows us during our Bible studies and we each 'get' where the other is coming from in terms of grasping a concept. Back in February, she and I started this conversation about the measure of faith. Since then, I have wanted to write about it, but because I tend to overthink things, I was making it more complicated than necessary. So instead of re-phrasing everything, I will simply share the conversation on what we are learning and trying to fully understand. Sometimes, 10 people can read the same passage and come away with different perspectives. In the end, we both came out on the other side of the study with a similar outlook.


Message from Michelle, February 21st:

I absolutely loved your last blog. I loved what you said about using 100% of our brains but only understanding 10%.

I wanted to share with you that I had been studying different passages. I started with I Peter 5:1-10. I memorized that passage. Then I did individual word studies if I wasn't exactly sure how to read the passage. I studied out the word soberly and it led me to the next passage. It was amazing how I kept seeing new things. I moved on to Romans 12.   I will be parked here for a while. There is so much there!  Specifically, though, I was reading in verse 3, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."  The "measure of faith".  What did that mean? I searched through the Greek words used, and it is literally speaking of something that determines quantity, like a measuring cup or tablespoon.
In studying some other passages, God showed me that He has already given each of us the measure of faith we are to get, perhaps for a single task or in life, I don't know.  In Luke 17, the apostles asked the Lord to "Increase our faith".  His response was if they had the faith even the size of a mustard seed, the sea would obey them.  It was not that they needed more faith, but that they needed to strengthen the measure of faith God had given them. We do not need more faith, we need a living, working that works at full capacity. I don't know if this email translates how exciting this is to me. I got excited when I read your blog, because it in a way paralleled what I was studying.

 Message from me to Michelle, February 22:
 It all begins with the question, "What did that mean?", doesn't it?  I can see how I would question what 'measure of faith' meant, too...I'm so glad you shared that with me. How difficult can it possibly be to have the faith as a grain of a mustard seed? -which I know is very very small {microscopic, bitty, tiny, wee}...yet if we did, in the truest sense, have the faith of the wee bit of a mustard seed we could move mountains and nothing would be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20). How powerful is that!!?!  Oh, us of little faith. I don't think we even understand 10% of how that works. That microscopic faith (true faith) might heal. That little bit of faith might see more souls saved. That tiny bit of real-honest-to-goodness-faith could open our eyes to see God. If that's all it takes - the faith of the grain of the mustard seed - to move mountains, to witness the impossible, then I really haven't understood or possessed this kind of faith, really. I doubt. I question. I'm skeptical. Matthew 13:58,"He did not many works there because of their unbelief."

Message from Michelle, February 25

The "measure of faith" still has me thinking. If God gave each of us the measure of faith we are to get for our lifetime, and the greatest measure out there still doesn't measure up to a grain of mustard seed, how small IS my measure of faith (therefore not unreasonable for me to live up to its full potential), and how infinitely minuscule is the portion of faith I actually use? It boggles my mind..


Closing Thoughts:

Have we fully answered this question? No. What have we accomplished? We have accomplished what is most important. We have sought out the Word. We have toiled and prayed to the Lord for understanding. In doing so, we have grown a little. Sometimes we expect the process to look like a nice, neat formula (I was always a fan of Algebra); but that idea can be a deterrent. It can discourage us because we have an expectation of exactly what something should look like. When it doesn't work out neatly, the way we pictured, we get discouraged. Then it becomes about us, and not about what God can and will do through us, despite us, according to what He has meted (measured) out to us. It could be a small measure at first. If we exercise it fully and use it to its full potential, we could be given a greater measure for the next task.  We are not commanded to grow at a certain rate, in a nice, neat algebraic equation. We are commanded to grow-period; to be faithful. ( 2 Peter 3:18, Luke 16:10, I Cor. 4:2)  John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  Increase...more of Him. Increase faith...more of Him. Measure of faith...use more of what He has imparted rather than think we need more in order to do more.

A measure of faith we have already been given. A measure of faith to do what exactly? Well, what are we called to do?  Maybe we are to use that measure of faith for our individual spiritual gifts and calling. Were some given by God more of a measure of faith than others? I don't know. Does it take more faith to be an evangelist, pastor, missionary than for a  teacher, a doctor/nurse, a banker, a factory worker, a stay-at-home-mom? Who is the judge of that anyway? I think we know Who. All gifts are important. None are insignificant. Yet each takes a measure of faith- Specifically the measure God gives to each individual. One thing that comes to my mind now is that it is of no value to compare ourselves with others. We can sit back and listen to a missionary to the African jungle share his testimony and think, "Wow! I wish I had faith like that." Well, maybe you don't need that measure of faith for you. Just the one you were given to do what God has called you to do. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," Romans 10:17. We can increase/strengthen our daily faith in our ordinary lives by hearing the word of God, by hearing the still small voice as we seek to honor Him, by simply using it. It's that faith of a child that wants to jump into his daddy's outstretched arms. He just jumps and is caught. And then wants to do it again.

{{Strengthen the measure of faith you have given me, Lord. Help me not to think more highly of myself than I ought to in thinking I could do more for You if only I had more faith. You have already given me all I need. I will use that faith daily in trusting You to guide me.  I will use that faith in working out the plan You have for me..whether it be in the homemaking and being a good wife, in the homeschooling, in taking care of my dad in his older years, in the working in our church in Mexico. Thank you for that measure of faith you have given me. While I don't know exactly if that measures to the size of a mustard seed or not, You are the Possessor of that knowledge and that's enough. Help me to use it wisely, to the full capacity that I am able.}}

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Step of Clarity - Find Your Even Place Part I

My husband and I had wrestled for a few years in following God's lead in a new direction. It was August of last year when we made a leap of faith and my husband enrolled in college courses to became a full time student. We felt overwhelmed. We felt at odds with ourselves, our finances, and our stuff that had built up over the years.

In studying through the Psalms last year, I came upon a phrase that has been our new mantra; "My foot standeth in an even place" -Psalm 26:11. 
An even place. Balanced, steady, continuous, unwavering. It grabbed my attention. So, where to even start in finding balance when the ground had just shifted under our feet? "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us", Hebrews 12:1 --I am finding that, for me, it's not where to START, but where or better yet, what to STOP. It's in finding space to breathe, to think, and to restore. And the things that are taking up space that take my breath away due to frustration, I need to clear.

I am considering a series of posts about "even places". There has been so much going on in my mind of things I need to clear out that are weighing me down, but I have too much that's weighing me down to do what needs doing! I felt I had some CLARITY yesterday when I finally went through my e-mails that have been piling up for months. I kept putting it off. Why do I have so many e-mails?? And NOT from friends and family?! I felt as if I had a break-through.** I needed to clear some space.** I needed to STOP subscribing to so many websites about recipes, health news, weight loss helps. I deleted nearly 200 e-mails that were of no use to me (I had only read a handful of them!) and I unsubscribed from sites that were hindering my focus.

While it's a meager start, it's a start nonetheless. When I started clearing up the e-mails, I was able to see clearly the messages I needed to respond to. A friend had just returned from vacation and had sent me photos. I was able to notice the reminder of a friend's birthday coming up in a few weeks. Important things. When I started clearing out the extra stuff I realized I just did not need, I started feeling some weight lifting off my shoulders. And it's not just the e-mails that were a mess, it's a combination of things that have been piling up, thus the abundance of messages was a reminder of more stuff that needed attention.  

I've come up with a system that has been helping and I've been implementing them here lately. But, I will save that for another post after I've tested this out a bit more.

If you're seeking for CLARITY, maybe instead of looking to start something new, consider STOPPING something first--something that may be hindering your focus on what really matters in your life. Take a step back. Evaluate what is important. Clear some space. Breathe.