Wednesday, May 29, 2013

40 Day Challenge- the "nitty-gritty"

In the previous two posts I've written, (to break the silence and the prelude,) I shared how and why our family's 40 day challenge was born.  Today I finally get to share the "nitty-gritty" details regarding what we did to get our feet moving.  I've found that there have been so many layers to this challenge that it is best to break it up into segments when sharing.  It probably would have been more wise to break up this "nitty-gritty" post into additional segments, but today I lay it all out in one post of great length and detail.

I mentioned before that the crux of our family challenge was based on Ephesians 3:20:

"...our God is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than we could ever ask or imagine."

When tackling this family challenge, we were anticipating positive changes and great results.  We were expecting that God would wonder-work in our hearts, our home, and our circumstances...and that He would do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.  Not only were we expecting and hoping Him to do so, we were also praying and believing Him to come through in these ways.  And He did.  I can't wait to share those details with you too.  But we'll save the results for next we will focus on the logistics of this family challenge.

And before I go even farther, let me give credit to God for giving me the insight and ideas for this challenge.  Surely, He was the source of it all.

1.)  The first thing we established were our reasons/needs for such a challenge.  What's the point of a challenge if you haven't determined the reasoning or desired results for taking on such a challenge? What needs to change?  What results are you hoping for? For us, we wanted a smoother running household, less stress, less yelling, more joy, more peace, more grace, self-control, responsible kids, strong work-ethic, servanthood, increased faith and prayer time.  We also wanted God to wonder-work in our circumstances.  It had been a long journey (almost 3 years) of lacking in many areas.  And although the leanness stretched and tore at us at times, God layered us up thick in faith.  With our trust and resolve strengthened, we were ready to boldly ask Him for more.  To do the immeasurable.  To work in our circumstances and move the mountains that stood before us.

2.)  The second thing we did is individually ask ourselves and our kids one thing we wanted for our family, and one thing we wished we could change about our family.  These simple questions gave insight and helped spur us on to answer and define the next two steps.

3.)  HOUSE RULES:  We brainstormed new house rules that we were going to begin to adhere to and follow.  The verse we used to mold these rules was:

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength...  
Love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27

Examples of our HOUSE RULES:
  • No yelling
  • No name-calling
  • Keep your hands to yourself (no hitting, pushing, bugging, etc.)
  • No lying
  • Clean up after yourself (toys, meals, projects, clothes, etc.)
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • Build each other up (encourage, do not criticize or tear down)
  • Serve one another/ function as a team
  • Love God above all other things 
  • Speak kindly.  Honor God with your words (no potty words, compliment one another, say things that are helpful not hurtful)
  • Pray about everything
  • Have a cheerful heart
  • Be thankful always
  • No eating without permission
  • No screens without permission (tv, computer, video games, iPods)
  • No means no.  No begging, whining, debating, or arguing with parents.
  • First time obedience (Do what you are told. The first time you are asked)
  • Be respectful (of people and property.  No talking back.  Honor your mother and father)
  • No arguing or bickering
  • No slamming doors or throwing things
  • Give God your best in everything
  • Be a role-model
  • Practice self-control
  • Use your manners
You get the picture!  Once we brainstormed all of these rules, we wrote them down and reviewed them with the kids that very morning in a family meeting...establishing them as NEW HOUSE RULES that took effect immediately.  It was very important that we did this together as a family to ensure we were all on the same page and to encourage accountability.  Some of the rules may seem obvious or self-explanatory...but by involving the kids and highlighting these areas with them both aloud and in writing, it solidified them, made the expectations clear, and united us as a family.

4.)  I often felt that by the end of the day I was completely spent.  That I was constantly doing things for everybody with little time to myself and no end in sight.  While some of this is just par for the course as a mom and wife, I knew that my kids could be doing more around the house to help me out.  I also knew that by me doing most things myself, I was enabling them and doing all of us a disservice.  I admit, some things are just easier to do on my own.  It gets done better and faster.  But, I wanted my kids to develop responsibility, a servant's heart, and good work ethic.  Even though they are 9, 8 and 3, there is still much they can learn and do.  I realized I had some quite capable workers in my midst and it was time to put them to work!  And not just as I pleased, but by coming up with a set of responsibilities that would become part of their every day. 

So, we came up with a list of RESPONSIBILITIES.  These responsibilities were based on the following verses:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the LORD, not for man."
Colossians 3:23

"Serve one another out of love."
John 13:35

"Do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up."
Galatians 6:9

Some of the kids RESPONSIBILITIES were as follows:
  • Brush your teeth (every morning and every night...and put toothpaste on your toothbrush when you do it! Make sure the toothpaste covers your mouth and not just the sink. Put your toothbrush and toothpaste away when you're through, since it really doesn't make for nice bathroom decor.)
  • Make your bed
  • Straighten up your bedroom
  • Clean up your messes/toys
  • Keep the bonus room clean (straighten every night)
  • Set the table
  • Clear the table
  • Read for at least 25 minutes every day
  • Empty dishes from dishwasher
  • Put dirty clothes in hamper or laundry room
  • Fold your clean laundry
  • Put away/hang up clean laundry 
  • When playing outside, put all bikes and toys away before you come back inside
  • Empty the trash (and put in a new trash liner!)
  • Take out the trash, and bring empty trash cans back up to the house
  • Help sweep and vacuum when asked
By following the House Rules and taking care of our daily responsibilities, we wanted to make sure that we were placing ourselves in a position where God could bless us.  

5.)  We didn't want this entire challenge to feel like "work" without reward.  The night before we started this challenge, Darcy and I brainstormed all of these areas on our own before involving the kids.  Again, believing that God could do IMMEASURABLY MORE than we could ever ask or imagine, we came up with a list of BIG DREAMS for our family, and for ourselves individually.  We presented all of these things with excitement and encouraged our kids to do the same.

The verses we used to mold these "BIG DREAMS" and to shape our future prayers were:

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..."
Matthew 6:33

"You do not have, because you do not ask God."
James 4:2

"If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
John 15:7

"Everything you ask in prayer and believe, it will be given to you."
Matthew 21:22

"But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt."
James 1:6

"He rewards those who diligently seek Him."
Hebrews 11:6

"...His incomparably great power for us who believe."
Ephesians 1:19

Examples of our BIG DREAMS (some smaller and more significant than others) included:
  • Financial security/becoming debt-free
  • A God-honoring career for Darcy that he would enjoy and would provide for our family (one in which we would not have to move away to do so)
  • Owning a "new" home
  • Believing God, increased faith, supernatural-wonder-working faith
  • Ministry opportunities
  • To become a published author
  • To start a business
  • To mentor and provide for another family
  • Being fruitful, effective, and influential for Christ
  • Family vacations
  • Regular date nights
  • Missions trips
  • Training up responsible, wise, godly kids with character and integrity
  • Passion/success with homeschooling
  • New school curriculum
  • Being able to afford holistic, homeopathic care for our family
  • Being able to afford regular dentistry and vision care
  • To take care of our parents
  • Seeing explicit divine action, God revelations of Himself and His activity
  • For God to graciously break any negative, destructive, behavioral cycles and replace them with Christ-like behavioral cycles
  • To cook good, healthy meals for my family
  • Getting back our gym membership
  • Being able to afford vitamins
  • Piano lessons for Brooke, and sports/extracurricular activities for the kids
  • Fixing the cracked windshields on both of our cars and getting new tires for Darcy's car
  • Surpassing our church's building campaign commitment, and giving more
We actually had a bit of fun asking the kids to come up with their own BIG DREAMS...we said nothing was out of reach or would be considered silly.  Here are some of their responses:

  • "Dad to get a job at a college, so that we could watch basketball games with him and go swimming with him all the time!" (*note: Darcy was a principal and these are things they often did when he worked in the schools.)
  • "Raise money so we can do fun things together as a family like go to Dave & Buster's, the Rec, buy more toys, and go on vacation."
  • "Get baptized on my birthday."
  • "Invent video games when I grow up."
  • "Move into a bigger and better house."
  • "Go to Ocean City more often."
  • "Go to Lake Michigan with our cousins."
  • "Learn how to snap." (hmmm...that's a good one!)
  • "Move into an apartment with one of my friends when I am 18 or 19."
  • "Get a dog!"
  • "Be baptized."
  • "Raise more money for the poor."
  • "Ride a unicorn." (hmmm....)
  • "Own a penthouse, like a hotel." (too much Disney channel watching?)
  • "Write a book."
  • "Make my own movie."
  • "Be rich." (to which Brayden replied: "Don't be rich because that would be hard to love God.  You'd just have so much stuff to do.")
  • "Go to Florida as a family!"
  • "Go to Mexico!" (to which Brayden replied: "Not me, people talk funny there, like that guy on Napoleon Dynamite.")
  • "Go to Ohio!" (Hmmm...I'm thinking this is because I had just come home from there...)
We also tagged these things with some chief goals for our household:
  1. Pray together more (as a couple, and as a family).  Get on our knees together.
  2. Read aloud together regularly (books and the Bible)
  3. Family Service Projects
  4. Less TV/Less "screen time" in general
  5. Acts of kindness: Do ONE nice, kind, thoughtful, unexpected thing for another member of the family once a day.
  6. Spiritual Nourishment (spend time daily in reading, music, prayer, and study)
  7. Memorize scripture
  8. Physical Health and Fitness (better eating, more movement)
Before I even came home from the homeschooling convention I realized that I needed to make one committed change immediately to get started and prepared for all of this.  I like to wake up and spend my first moments with the LORD by doing a Bible study, reading scripture, and/or spending time in prayer.  I used to set my alarm an hour and a half before everyone else in the house got up so that I had the time to do this.  However, since homeschooling, we aren't on a rigid schedule in the morning.  I got into the habit of leisurely getting out of bed on my own internal clock.  I still had my quiet (or somewhat quiet) time with God each day, but it was usually interrupted by little ones who had already awoken.  I found this time to be less quiet and less rewarding...and that I wasn't getting in enough of it each day.  In addition, it caused us to start our homeschooling day much later than I desired....often making all of us feel stressed and rushed.  I had fallen out of the habit of setting my alarm, and decided it was time to return to it.

They say you can turn a new behavior into a habit by repeating it for 21 days. In Kyle Idelman's book "Not a Fan" he talks about the "as now, so then" principle of human behavior.  He writes, "Simply stated the 'as now, so then' principle is the idea that current habits are overwhelmingly the most likely predictor of future practices.  The vast majority of the time, the decision you make today will be the decision you make tomorrow.  If you don't do it now there is no reason to think you will then."

We were embarking on a challenge that would incorporate many new habits into our home and our hearts.  Setting my alarm early each morning to spend the firstfruits of my day with God was the first one I tackled.  Let me share a bit of what that this looked like because I added a few extra practices to my routine:

Each morning I set my alarm to wake up an hour before everyone else, crawled out of bed, brushed my teeth, grabbed my coffee, and went straight to my "quiet room" spot.  I hit my knees and prayed  aloud each morning before I did anything else.  Then I grabbed my "40 Day Family Challenge Journal" (I highly recommend you keep some record of this) and added the following steps to my daily morning quiet time routine:

First, I made my "LIST OF 3."

This consisted of the top three things I needed to accomplish that given day.  I am a list girl.  Sometimes my lists are a mile long.  And then by the end of the day I am discouraged that I only got to cross off a fraction of that list.  So, I decided I may be more productive and feel more accomplished if I just wrote down and tried to tackle the three most pressing needs of the day.  The goal was to take each day as it came and not feel stressed and overwhelmed by all the combined needs and challenges of the week.  I found this method to be very helpful.  I didn't always get to cross off everything on my list of 3.  But, it kept me focused and on track each day.

Second, I made a "LIST of ONE." (or what I called, my "encouragee"...someone I was to encourage)

I really had felt God pouring out His favor on my relationships around this time.  I wanted this to continue and desired to strengthen these relationships and do my best to keep them flourishing.  I committed each day to reaching out to just one person.  It could be by phone, text, email, fb, card/note, or personal visit.  Sometimes God just laid a person on my heart, and other times I sought out a person to encourage.  It was another method I used to keep people and relationships above work and service.  A big part of our family challenge surrounded itself around our need to "connect."  I wanted our family to connect to God and to each other.  I desired healthy, growing relationships both inside and outside of our home.  I found a lot of joy and blessing in following through with this goal each day. 

Third, I wrote down our family's daily prayer requests, things I was learning through my Bible study, evidences of God's work in our hearts, our home and our circumstances, pressing needs and challenges we were facing with our 40 day challenge, etc.  This has proven to be a great record of God's wonder-working and faithfulness over this time.

Once I completed these things, I dove into my Bible study and spent time in intercessory prayer and prayer for our family.  After a good hour or so, my kids were up, and I felt more equipped to start my day and manage my time better.  It was so peaceful and refreshing to start my days in this way.

Lastly, we planned for "KNEETIME."  A final, yet crucial, habit that Darcy and I dedicated ourselves to was praying together as a couple.  In all honesty, we did not do this enough!  We often had the intention to do so, even talked about it, but as each day drew to a close we would find ourselves too tired and would end up putting it off till the next day.  And then the next...And then the next.  Too often we found ourselves only praying together when we were in desperate need.  This is something we both longed to change.  So we made it a habit to get down on our knees nightly to do this.

During our nightly "kneetime" we prayed bold and audacious prayers over our family and our circumstances.  I'll share this in more detail at another time.  But this is where things really began to take root.  It by far has been the most effective and rewarding aspect of this entire family challenge.  I can't begin to express the importance of this one, simple, yet so necessary, act.  I truly believe this is where the majority of God's wonder-working was activated.

So there you have all of the "nitty-gritty."  Because we could not control our external circumstances, we decided to take charge of the things we could control internally and began working on transforming the heart of our family and taking steps to put these changes into place.  We set off excited, expectant, hopeful, and convinced that God was up to something BIG.  On several occasions I even thought to myself, "If I were going to write a book about this, I would title it: 'BIGGER is BETTER: 40 Days to BIG Prayer, BIG Dreams, and BIG Faith in an even BIGGER God'."

If you find yourself desiring change within your family, I encourage you to attempt a similar challenge. Early on in our 40 Day Family Challenge we felt the winds of change blowing through our household in real and tangible ways.  God showed up BIG and did not disappoint.  Of course, this challenge was birthed out of the needs and goals for our individual family.  Every family is different, so feel free to tailor your challenge as you see fit.

If you do find yourself interested in taking on a challenge such as this, remember to make a thoughtful plan and ask for insight from the LORD.  Set yourself up for success, but expect the unexpected.  Leave a margin of grace. Life happens and change doesn't occur overnight.  We were not perfect in following through on all of our goals, rules, and responsibilities each day.  We even had to revisit and review the rules and responsibilities with our kids around Day 15 as things were beginning to slide and fall loosely.  We kept each other accountable and refused to give up.  We recommitted to our challenge each day despite the roadblocks that came our way.  And we did not compromise on our prayer time.

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
James 5:16

I beg of you, do not attempt a challenge such as this, expecting BIG things, without making prayer your chief priority.  Have fun with it.  Dare to dream big, and expect that our God is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than you could ever ask or imagine! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

40 Day Challenge- The Prelude

I'm so excited to report that Friday, May 17th marked the 40th day of our family's 40 day challenge!  Before I get into the "nitty-gritty" of this challenge, let me tell you how it all came to be.  Today's focus will be on the prelude.  The leading up.

April 4th-6th I attended a Homeschooling Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.  For the week leading up to this convention I did not really feeling like going.  My husband and I were discouraged about our circumstances. We had been looking for new job opportunities for him, but any leads we explored just led to dead ends.  We had hit another "dead end" that week.  Even though I didn't really feel like attending this homeschooling conference, I knew I needed the motivation and encouragement I would find there.  So, I packed up and went.

Not even an hour after arriving at this convention center packed with thousands upon thousands of people and vendors, (in overwhelming numbers, making a "newbie" homeschooling mom even a tad bit more intimidated), God showed up and surprised me.  Over the course of the weekend His voice broke loud and clear.  And there was silence no more.

See, months prior I met an old friend of one of my friends, who was visiting her from out of state.  I had no idea this friend of a friend was a seasoned homeschooling mom.  But as we struck up a conversation that evening, it was brought to light.  I remember standing in my friend's kitchen completely engaged in conversation with her, oblivious to anything going on around me.  Her words of encouragement were timely, and I soaked them in like the noonday sun.  Before the night was over, this friend of a friend pulled me aside and asked if she could pray for me.  Her words were spot on, and she spoke certain things (about and over myself, my husband, and our family) that only the Spirit could have revealed to her.  Our chance encounter that evening seemed nothing less than God-ordained.  It moved me and brought great encouragement.

So, back to Cincinnati.  Would you believe that in a sea of thousands of people on registration day, I would be standing in one of many lines waiting to purchase a ticket to one of the offered speaking events, when I would hear a strangely familiar voice coming from somewhere behind?  I turned around in line, and directly behind me was this friend of a friend!  Who happens to live in Ohio, and happened to be attending the same convention, and happened to be in the same line looking to sell back just one ticket to the exact event I was looking to purchase just one ticket.  It was a God thing.  My heart was grinning from ear to ear as I felt His presence near.  I knew that He was giving me a personal and tangible dose of encouragement to keep focused on the work He had called me to with this homeschooling journey.  It was as if He was speaking and confirming in my heart that I was right where He wanted me to be, doing the very work He had first called me to a year prior.  He got my attention.

These homeschooling conventions are jam-packed with workshops to attend.  They offer a myriad of classes/sessions on the hour, around the clock, all weekend long.  There are so many good workshops to choose from, and really not enough time for one person to soak in all the information she desires.

Here is a flavor of just a fraction of workshops offered:
-Meeting the Needs of Mathematically Gifted Children 
-How Latin is the Key to Making Language Learning Easy
-How Memory Works: Essential Learning Systems
-Study Like a Genius: Unlocking Your Brain
-Classical Teaching of History
-Learn the Greek Alphabet in an Hour
-Teaching Your Students to Read for Comprehension
-Teaching Literature with Socratic Discussion
-Fermentation Science with the Perfect Pickler (yes, that was really offered)
-Russia in the Dark Age of Communism
-12 Genius Qualities to Encourage in Your Children

And then here are a few of the workshops I found myself drawn to:
-When it Hurts to Homeschool
-21 Days to a More Disciplined Life
-10 Ways to Stop Defiance, Disrespect, and Meltdowns
-10 Ways to Make Your Kids Crazy About You
-How to Make Your Home a Piece of Heaven on Earth
-I Quit!
-Stop the Yelling, Lecturing, and Power Struggles
-Exploding the Supermom Myth
-Homeschooling with Little Ones in the Mix
-Help! It's 5:00 and We're Still Doing School!
-Don't Just Read God's Word, Devour it as a Family
-Discipline that Works when Consequences Don't
-How to Overcome being Overwhelmed

A stark contrast, don't you think?  I began to realize that at this point in my homeschooling journey, I couldn't even fathom or comprehend attending some of those "academic" workshops until I had a handle on some of the topics covered in this last set of workshops.  Latin?  I'm not there yet. I'm still aiming to abolish the complaining that occurs when I ask my 9 year old to dictate a 12 word sentence in English...(which happens to be his native tongue by the way, and should come quite naturally.)  Or squelch the tear-stained-face meltdowns and pencil breaking fits that have occurred in the past when asked to do such a ridiculous thing.  Genius Qualities?  In this house, we are just hoping to land on "average" most days.  As in..."Daughter, you misspelled your own name, can you rewrite that please? There is an E at the end," or learning to follow the infamous grammar rules that every sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.  Let's start there before we get all "genius" under this roof.  We are an extraordinarily ordinary family, and I'm ok with that.

So, yeah.  I found myself attending workshops that solely dealt with issues outside the world of academia.  God began revealing to me that my focus should be in the home and of the heart.  That the academics could (and should) all come later.  I was listening.

Over the course of the weekend, I felt God gently speaking to me and revealing areas of desired change within my heart and my home.  That He was after heart change...individual and familial heart transformation.  I was convicted and felt a strong sense that He was calling me to act with immediacy.  On a few occasions I caught myself praying, "God, please don't let me die anytime soon!  There is much good work still yet to be done."  I couldn't wait to get home.

When I came home from the convention, my husband was shocked to hear of all of the workshops I had attended.  He assumed they would all be geared toward academics and the like.  He could sense my passion and conviction to create change within our household and he eagerly jumped on board with me.  A true gift from God that we would be on the same page with this challenge we were about to embark upon.

When beginning this homeschooling journey, I purchased this etsy print and hung it on the wall right outside our classroom.

It served as a reminder for me to throw myself into this new role of "homeschooling mom."  That I was making a difference with my one precious life.  That what I was doing mattered and had purpose.  That between the peanut butter-and-jelly-making and monotonous housework routine, each day counted.  That I was not to take it for granted, sit in idleness, or grow desensitized to the task, but to work at it with all my heart, and not grow weary in doing this good work I had been called to.  To live this one wild and precious life with intention and passion.  Each and every moment.  For moments lead to hours, that lead to days, that lead to seasons and years, which add up to a lifetime.  They matter and we must make them count.

This convention stirred up something wild and fiery within me to do so.  To live out this life with purpose and passion, and to be intentional about it.  That I was the one who had control over it.  That the measure of joy and peace I was able to receive was all but a choice. That I had choices to make that could bring about the change I had been craving.  Not just change within our family of 5, but generational change as we laid the foundations for a life worth living.

At the convention, as I began to self-reflect and really pay attention to the stir of His Spirit within thing became painfully clear.  It began with me and the things that I can control.

It seems most of the areas in life that steal my joy and peace, and overwhelm me the most, are not necessarily external circumstances that I have little or no control over.  Those things certainly bring stress, but they are more like the "icing on the cake" to life's disharmony.  I discovered that the things that stress me out the most and steal my joy are the very things that I alone can control.  It started with me.  In how I act and react, respond, prioritize, and manage my time.  These are all things that cause a ripple effect to the lives around me and the harmony within our home.  These are the things I needed to re-evaluate, take back, and begin to tweak and change.  I was ready.  And determined.

It seemed too often in our family, we let our emotions control us...and the emotions of those around us.  They dictated our stress and the climate of our household.  One bad mood or attitude could attempt to spoil a whole day or evening, and everyone in it.   This can too easily become a default or norm.  Where it seems to be a vicious cycle in which everyone's emotions are controlling the household.  And there are plenty of days where this is beautiful.  And there are plenty of days where this is toxic.  I wanted to stop the toxic and give my kids better tools to avoid "sweating the small stuff" and to rise above it all regardless of their circumstances.

It's not that we were living in a crazy house that yells at each other all the time.  But there were moments I was noticing that our words, our tone of voice, and our behaviors toward each other were lacking gentleness and grace more regularly than not.  There was a calmness that was lacking too.  And sometimes, for no good reason at all...but rather out of mere habit.  We all know this life is full of frustrations, disappointments, and plan B's (and C's).  That's not going to change.  We just have to learn to cope with these things and maintain our joy and peace in the face of adversity.  God was calling me to do a better job with this.

I often found that after too many of my "mom buttons" had been pushed, I ended up doing and saying the very things I reprimanded my kids for doing and saying?  I expected and trained them to react and respond to each other and situations with patience and self-control, and for the most part I was doing this myself.  But, sometimes, when those buttons were pushed, it's like all rational sense of reasoning went out the window.  What kind of example is that?  As parents, we are the example.  We are the "how to live" blueprint for our children.  This is where my conviction for change began to bloom.  I knew I could be doing better. Part of the beauty I found in homeschooling is that it gave me more time to influence and instill godliness in my children.  Yet, as time passed, I felt convicted that I was falling short here.

It was time to make some changes.  God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  He desires we live and enjoy an abundant life here on earth.  He does not run out of grace, peace, and joy to offer us.  There is no shortage.  It's more like we clog the conduits in life to receive these things.  Or just plain don't ask or pursue them, but rather expect God to drop them into our laps each day.  It doesn't work this way though.  We all have an active role to play in gathering and becoming a grateful recipient of these things.  To be intentional about the way we live.  To pursue peace.

The manna that sustains and fills is available to us daily, hourly, and by the minute.  Too often I found myself coming up short.  Overwhelmed and overworked by the end of each day.  Easily growing tired and weary by the time my husband got home at night.  When I should have been looking forward to enjoying quality time with him and our family of five being together, I often found myself "spent" and wanting to sneak away by myself to exhale and retreat.  I didn't like not having my "best self" to offer him when he came home at night.  But rather a "worn out" self.  A self in which every button had already been pushed that day, and my kids and the household bore the scars to prove it.

I want myself and everyone in my family to live a passionate life of peace, joy, purpose and fruitfulness.  And to see that despite external circumstances, we can have these things in abundance.  That godly character and heavenly treasure are the things that give us fullness of life.  That we are in control of our own emotions and God can usher in calmness of heart and home if we pursue peace and live with intention.

After an extended season of silence, God spoke, and His voice rang loud and clear to my poised ear and hungry heart.  All in a weekend.  So was birthed our 40 day family challenge.   We eagerly accepted and took on this challenge with drive and determination.  With not a moment wasted.

God filled us with fresh revelation and insight to tackle our family challenge.  Over and over again He showed up with His "Wonder-working" and filled us with strength and encouragement to press on toward the goal.  If there were more hours in a day, I'd share now.  But the baby naps, and writing and grammar with the older two still sits on my plate for today.  I promise to share soon...until then, stay tuned for the "nitty-gritty."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

To Break the Silence

I look at today's date and the massive gap of time between my last post and this one and wonder if there's anyone out there still following my blog...and if you are, thank you for being loyal.  Has it really been over two full months?  Since I started this blog in 2008 I don't think there has ever been such a lapse of time in writing.  For those loyal followers out there, you know that for the past 2 years my posts have been consistently focused on the sharing of my faith journey.  While facebook has been a great avenue to share photos and life events, this little blog has become my outlet to share my heart and the work God is doing within it.  Today I break the silence.

With that said, over the years I've found the most satisfaction in writing when I am Spirit-led.  And even though I love to write and could muster up posts just to satisfy that love of breathing out words,  I tend to hold onto those things and use this space to share the moments God has placed something on my heart worthy enough to share.  And in those moments I do write, it usually feels like it's a nudge from the LORD pressing me onward to do so.  I've learned to ask Him which things He wants me to share publicly and which things to hold a little closer.  When it's a lesson or telling of His promises, He usually gives me the green, and says, "By all means, share Me!" The purpose for this blog is not for me, but for Him and His glory.  So, He directs.  Other times when what I am sharing is a little more concerning to myself personally, He says, "Let's  just keep it here for now."  Either way, I take no credit if anything "good" ever comes out of this tiny corner of blogging space in our gigantic cyber-world.   All glory to Him.

And while I am at it, I am curious to hear from other writers...How does God work in your heart in guiding you with your writing?  Most people who know me know that writing is a passion of mine.   But when I am not led by His Spirit to write, it's less rewarding, and lacks that appeal and passion.  Passion that springs from Him when His Spirit is awakened in me.  And when it is, it feels more like a compulsion.  A holy consumption.  Sometimes I am rendered useless until word hits page.  Restless.  Distracted until those consonants and vowels form words and sentences and thought and heart change.  They are mini-mountaintop moments where I catch a glimpse of His heart and His glory up close and personal.  So I crave it.  Use me LORD.  As You will.  Make me Your vessel. This is one way He has chosen to do so. I do hope He continues.

But He rarely just shows up and flows through me as I sit before my laptop and blank screen.  Does He do that for you?  He most often comes in snippets of thought.  Bursts of idea.  And often at the most inconvenient of times, like when I am blowdrying my hair or driving in the car.  I might be applying make-up, and He presses words on my heart, just as the mascara hits my lashes.  So I pause, grab something, anything to jot it down, and return to my makeup.  30 seconds later, He interrupts again.  So I jot, and, and, and scrub, and drive.  My house is filled with scribbled notebooks and papers filled with this stuff.  I'm often frantically searching for paper and pen, or my phone, to immediately begin scribbling because I know I will not remember later, even if I try.    Sometimes I'm lying in bed ready to shut my brain off and He says, "Ah, ah, ah...not yet! Don't forget this part."  So i groggily crawl out of my warm, cozy bed and begin to jot.  My "notes" app on my iPhone is filled with more of these one-finger-typed scribbles.  These little God spurts and interruptions.  While they make events and tasks take much longer than required, they are welcomed.  I don't want to miss anything He has for me.  These divine interruptions I've grown to love.  Sometimes they come in spurts throughout a day, or a couple of days.  Sometimes topics marinate in my mind a bit longer.  But there's usually a "building up." All in spurts.  It isn't till later when I sit before my keyboard do the words begin to come out differently and find their rhythm.  He begins to untangle, put them in order, make sense of them with His threading and weaving.  This seems to be my method.  Does He do that with you too?  Or does He just make it easier on you and show up in one long sitting?  I really am curious to know.

So, back to my story.  As you can assume, for over 2 months He's been silent.  No nudging.  No pressing. No scribbles. No spurts.  No interruptions.

Though, please don't equate that silence to distance.  I've felt God's presence near and dear to me in many ways.  He's gently spoken to me and has guided me in this timeframe, yet He just hadn't laid anything on my heart to share.  After the first month I began to wonder why.  The months prior I couldn't seem to get thoughts on page fast enough.  I often had several blog posts simultaneously brewing in my heart and my mind.  I'd begin one before finishing the other.  More spurts and jots mingling to find their way.  Like floodgates bursting open rushing to find their own space to settle.  It wasn't until later that I would discover the purpose for His silence.  In the meantime, God has been doing some mighty Wonder-working over these past two months...much of what I will get to later on in this post if you stick with me.  

So back to the silence.  I began to wonder why God is silent with us at times.  I used to think it was punishment, or sin on my behalf that was blocking and clogging my ability to hear Him.  While that is true in some cases, there are other reasons I have recently discovered.  I've realized that sometimes God is very intentional with His silence.  Sometimes He chooses to remain silent so that we'll still and quiet our hearts before Him.  He often desires this stillness of heart right before He is going to reveal Himself big in our lives.  It's as if He is saying, "I really, really want to have your attention here.  So quiet all the noise around you and make sure you are listening intently to Me.  I want your undivided attention, because I am going to do something BIG.  I need ALL of you for this one.  I need you to have a craving for Me, so that you don't miss anything I am about to reveal.  I want you hungry, ravenous, focused...ear and heart in tune to hear My voice above all the noise and commotion around you. I want you ready."  His silence might very well mean He is getting you ready for something more.  So, if you find yourself in a moment or season of this, prepare your heart for what's to come.  And be ready to dig deeper to find Him and His awaited treasure.  He may be just around the corner of today looking for the proper time to break the silence.

Carrying on.  Goodness, I glance above and look at the length of this post already, and yet I haven't even gotten to the meat of it!  I better cut this short before I lose you!  Needless to say, God has been up to something BIG within the heart of our family.  We are on day 31 of a 40 Day Family Challenge that has been rocking our world and surprising us at every turn.  I can't wait to share it with you!  If you are curious for more, stay tuned.  I feel we need to finish off the last 9 days of our challenge first.

In the meantime, be bold and pray this verse over yourself, your family, and your circumstances.  With great thanks.  It's the very crux of our family challenge.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.
Ephesians 3:20

And when you do pray...believe it to be true!  I'm experiencing pieces of this truth right now.  I promise it's available for anyone who believes.  And so does He!