Digging Deep in the Word | Lessons from Andrew

As promised last week, today I’ll be sharing with you a snippet of what I’ve been studying from my personal devotions lately.  I’ve mentioned one of my very favorite ways to study is by using a prayer journal, and that’s what I have been using.  You can read more about how I discovered my prayer journal when I wrote on getting real about time in God’s Word.  To give you an idea of what my time in the Word looks like, I’ll give you a very personal snapshot of what my devotions looked like as I was studying through Christ’s Disciples the other day and read about Andrew.

Today’s Reading:  John 1:35-42, 6:1-15 {Andrew}

What word or phrase in today’s reading speaks to your heart?

The two disciples heard him (John the Baptist) speak, and they followed Jesus.  (1:37)

This he (Jesus) said to prove him: for he (Jesus) himself knew what he would do. (5:6)

How does today’s reading directly relate to your life right now?

I want others to follow Jesus because of me.

I feel like Jesus has been asking me questions lately about how I am going to handle challenges and trials in my life… and I’ve been answering more like Philip than Andrew.  John 6:7-9 says, “Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?”

How is God calling you respond to what you’ve read today?

Think about how my speech affects those around me.

Stop and consider the questions God has been posing to me regarding the challenges and trials of life.  Rather than talk about what I can’t do or don’t have I need to reply with what I do have and can do.  Andrew still didn’t see how that little could feed so many, but he offered Jesus what they had rather than a complaint and talking about what they didn’t have.

Your own additional thoughts/meditations:

Dear God, thank you for your word and the wisdom and counsel of it.  Thank you for the reminder that YOU ALREADY KNOW what you’re going to do about each and every situation we are in.  I guess what is overwhelming me the most lately has been… But I know I have been more like Philip.  All I have been doing is telling you, myself, and others what we don’t have or can’t do.  Forgive me.  Change my attitude.  Help me be more like Andrew, offering you the little I do have and trusting you to do great things with it.

This method of personal devotions has real life application for me.  The very day that I did this study, I found myself complaining about how much “life” costs and how little we had and how there’d never be enough to cover the upcoming expenses.  The Holy Spirit immediately convicted me and reminded me of how my thought patterns and speech were not leading anyone to follow Jesus.  I repented and asked God to change my heart and attitude – again!  That very night, I came across a bunch of barely used maternity clothes that fit perfectly for only a fraction of what I would pay for them normally.  I don’t think that was by chance.  I know that is God showing me that the principles which held true hundreds of years ago still hold true today.  He is a faithful provider.

Digging Deep in the Word

If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you likely know the struggle is real when it comes to devotions and Bible study.  We struggle in various ways – whether it be finding the time, or maybe deciding where to start, or maybe you find time and even start but can’t seem to get anything out of it.  I’d venture to say we’ve all been there are time or two.

That’s why I’m so excited to be teaming up with two college friends of mine at Creating Kilter and Young Housewife to bring you a series on “Digging Deep in the Word.”

It’s one thing to read your Bible to check it off a religious list of sorts.  It’s another to read it for relationship with Jesus.  My goal is to always draw closer to Jesus in every venture I set out on when studying the Bible.

Let’s start out by getting this out there in the open.  This is not an area of my life I have “arrived” in by any means.  I still struggle with at least one, and at times, all of the above mentioned areas.  But there have been a few things that I have picked up along the way and found to be helpful.  And, hopefully you can find something here to encourage you.

So let’s address these struggles…

  • Finding Time
    • Truth is, that just as any other important area of life, you don’t just miraculously “find” time one day.  You have to make time for it.  It might be in the morning.  It might be at night.  And it may just be the few minutes you can catch while the kids are napping.  No matter what time of day it is, it’s important to set that time aside.
    • Accept that seasons of life will affect how long you have to spend in the Word.  Some times, I have hours to pour over it and I have loved those times.  Other times, I’m doing good to get fifteen minutes in.  Either way, find a time that will work for your schedule, and make it happen.
  • Deciding Where to Start
    • You may not necessarily think about this first, but what kind of person are you?  Do you enjoy variety?  Or do you like constant?  Do you like to change things up?  Or do you like the long game?  Here’s why I ask.  I like variety.  I get bored easily.  I need things to keep changing to hold my interest.  With that in mind, I choose studies (topics or books of the Bible) that will last either a couple days or a week or two.  This holds my interest and keeps me growing closer to Christ.  Now, if you’re someone who likes the long game, maybe you would do better with a 90 day Bible reading plan or reading the Bible through in a year.  While I have done reading plans such as those, I’ve noticed I struggle with maintaining interest and end up reading for the sake of reading rather than my ultimate goal – drawing closer to Jesus.
    • I highly recommend having a study aid of some kind.  These can vary so much.  Ultimately, finding something that works well for you will probably be somewhat of a process of trial and error.  Here are a few different things you could try:
      • The Daily Walk Bible
        • This would be great for a person who wants to do more than just read the Bible, but they like more of a long term plan.  It has great daily devotions, book overviews, historical insights, and personal application.
      • Study & Prayer Journal
        • a variety of journals will guide you through whatever topic or book of the Bible you are navigating through
        • others such as this Proverbs 31 study lead you through a specific topic.
        • one such as this Write the Word Journal is a daily journal with Scriptures each day to journal about
      • Illustrated Faith / Bible Journaling
        • This is something that I am JUST starting to get into.  I have always loved writing in my Bible and this is right up my ally
  • Getting Something
    • If you’re struggling to really get something from the Word when you sit down to read, I’ve found it could be a variety of things.
      1. Time of Day/Environment
        • It’s good to get alone and quiet with God.  Find your spot.
      2. Study Tools
        • Maybe you need something new.  Try something you haven’t done before.  Do a short term study.  Do a word study (just use the concordance in the back of your Bible) on something either you are interested in or struggle with.
      3. Heart/Mind
        • I think that most of the time when I am struggling to get something from the Word it’s either because I am distracted by too many other things or my heart just isn’t where it needs to be.  The remedy to this, while very simple, is key – gut wrenching, honest prayer.  No other “fix” will work if the heart is the problem.  Don’t get discouraged.  Just go to your prayer closet and pour it all out at Jesus feet.
        • While prayer is key to getting our hearts and minds to where they need to be, I also find that music will draw my heart to God when I am really struggling.  So, next time, try listening to, singing, or playing some music that will draw your heart to God before you begin your time in the Word.

Now that we’ve addressed these struggles that are real, next time I’ll share with you  what I’ve been up to lately.  Be sure to stop by Creating Kilter & Young Housewife for more tips on digging deeper in the Word.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below on your favorite ways to get into your Bible!

the simple power of persistence

Persistence

noun

firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition

I wonder how many times we are on the verge of a breakthrough when we give up and walk away.  How many times, if we would we just remember the whole reason we started… and not quit… how many times, we just might see success.

This concept is at the forefront of my mind because it’s something I struggle with but have begun to see victory in.

I’ve talked about it before.  I have a perfectionist mentality that I battle with daily.  The problem with us perfectionists is that we quit when we can’t get it perfect.  Add to that a dose of impatience, and well, you might as well have failed before you even tried.

Recently, I was bawling my eyes out and on the verge of quitting something.  This something was figuring out how to live on a bare bones budget when it seems the money just never stretches quite far enough even when we are doing the best we can.  I know many people struggle with this.

Some people (the vast majority of America) choose to just spend.  Put it on the credit card.  Pay it later.  Or, they work themselves to the point of exhaustion with no time for family or God just to pay for the extravagant lifestyle they want… still coming up empty and frustrated because things and money just don’t satisfy.

Others take the hard route.  The disciplined route.  Creating a budget, sticking to it, and living within their means.

But what happens when the means never seems to be enough?  When you’ve couponed all you can, shopped the sales, don’t have cable, take your own trash to the dump, and still… just not enough?  Surprises keep coming… good surprises like helping someone else out, but nevertheless an unexpected expense.  Or, other surprises like your car insurance going up… yet again.

A couple weeks ago, I was there.  It was the last straw.  I opened a bill to see that my car insurance had gone up for the second time within two months.  It’s an outrageous amount.  And it’s not like I wasn’t trying to budget for our family and be wise with our money.  It was one of those surprises, and I was faced with the overwhelming feeling that I’d never be able to get it together… that this would be a battle we would fight the rest of our lives.  That we’d never be able to have financial peace.

This past year I have done tons of research, listened to Dave Ramsey, followed his course, created more budget systems than I can imagine, and yet… we were still struggling!  The money just always seemed to disappear on some sort of surprise.

But back to the point of this post, I’m so glad I didn’t give up.  You see, the reason I began this journey for financial peace was important, and so I couldn’t.

I tried… yet again… another budget system.

This time I landed on this guy’s budget. (Go get it here for free!) And this time it’s different!  This time, a light bulb has gone off.  Something has clicked.  And friends, it’s working!!!!

Are the finances perfect? Ha!  Noo… but there’s PROGRESS or such sweet progress, and I’m so grateful the LORD gave me the strength to be PERSISTENT when I just wanted to throw in the towel after so many failures.

So, if you’re on the verge of quitting something that seems to just not be working.  How about taking it to God?  Before Him, remember the reason you started.  And if it’s something He wants you to continue, ask Him to give you the grace and strength to try again.

You could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

 

 

 

 

new year. new beginnings.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted a quote on some avenue of social media which completely stopped me in my tracks and made me think.  Today, I went back to find it, but can’t find it anywhere.  So I’ll just give the gist of what it said.  Essentially, it said a writer must not wait for the words to come, but simply sit down and begin writing, and the words will come.

And I realized how much I have missed this little piece of my world – writing.

And I’ve missed all of you!  The fellowship of Christian women in the online community is simply refreshing and encouraging.

I know.  Why the absence when I have missed it so?

Truthfully, I began to believe the little lies whispered by the enemy.  That my blog wasn’t making a difference.  That no one read it.  And it was a waste of time to continue.

Time passed, and people that I didn’t even know read my blog asked me what had become of it… that they enjoyed reading it and really missed it.

But I wanted to take my time coming back.  Life got incredibly crazy over the course of the past several months.  I needed to find my balance before I could incorporate this piece again.  And I needed to set some more reasonable goals for myself with the blog.

All that being said, it is oh-so-good to be back!!

Let me catch you up with what’s been going on in the absence.

Mike accepted the position as the associate pastor of a nearby church.  We also became the teachers of a college and career class.  We are both choir members.  We’ve been helping out with the youth and are also busy in ladies and men’s ministry.  I play the piano for about half of the services and will be helping with the teaching of our ladies Bible study.   Mike preaches at least once a quarter.  We are still able to participate in our ministry at the rescue mission.  We are super blessed to learn from a very wise, loving, and godly pastor and his wife who have been in ministry for years.  They are an excellent example to us, and we can’t even begin to express how grateful we are for their mentoring.

I took a position as a nanny for a little girl back in the fall, have been teaching piano lessons, and will also be adding secretarial work to the mix here in the near future.

We’ve also been gearing up for some big changes in this new year.

The most exciting change of all is that God has blessed us with a little one on the way.  We are beyond excited and thankful to begin this journey in spite of all the sickness I’ve been experiencing because of it.

We have also put our house on the market so that we can make the move to be closer to church.  With all the meetings that happen throughout the week and the desire to have our home open to people of the church, it will be much better to be closer to the church.  We are praying that it will sell quickly so that we can find a place to move into before the baby is born.

Life is crazy.

But never before have I experienced so much peace and joy.

Don’t get me wrong. Life is tough!! It feels like we are in a battle. Every. Single. Day.  But that’s because we are.  But God is greater than all!!

Just yesterday, I lay in bed unable to be at church to encourage others or experience the fellowship we all so desperately need.  I was discouraged.  I felt defeated.  Sickness had me there yet again, and worries began swirling in my mind.  But the Word of God quickly came to me.

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

“God is my refuge and my strength.”

“I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord.”

Songs began to fill my heart and I lifted my hands in worship to the God of this universe as tears poured down my face.  I CAN trust Him no matter what!  He loves me.  No matter what the circumstances of this life throw at me, he loves me!  Praise Him!  What sweet moments with Jesus… and what a blessing that we can experience the sweet Holy Spirit when we need Him most!

I’m back friends.  And I’m so, so happy to be here again.  I won’t promise a perfectly scheduled blog and posts, but I’ll be here as much as I can.  And I look forward to sharing in all that God will do in and through us this coming year!

giving thanks not complaints

Ok, I know it’s Autumn and all things are warm and cozy and fluffy and happy…

But it’s about to get real, real fast here.

How many of us have found ourselves seeing the good in other’s lives and craving exactly what they have?  Maybe it’s the house they live in or the clothes they wear or even the materials they use for their journaling Bibles… maybe it’s a talent or gift or job.

It doesn’t matter what exactly that thing is… what matters is the attitude of heart we can slip into so quickly without even realizing  it. (It’s called human NATURE for a reason).

I’ve talked about it before.  There’s nothing wrong with appreciating beauty or blessings of life.  But if we love it to the point where we are finding ourselves miserable in our situations because we aren’t at the certain place or owning that little thing or succeeding in the same way as another… maybe it’s time for a quick heart check.

How’s our time with God? Are we complaining about the stuff we don’t have yet or the season of life we find ourselves in?  Or are we pouring out thanks for the blessings – small and big – that He has poured into our lives.

We’re about to enter a season where gratitude is celebrated.  We are encouraged to be thankful – thankful in ALL things.

Let’s begin now to check our hearts.  Let’s be grateful now for what we DO have and trust the future with all our hopes and dreams into the hands of a very loving and capable God.

make-shift war room needed

that moment when it’s thirteen minutes till midnight and you’re still fully clothed from the day, have yet to take a shower, and you just sat down for the first time to breathe

that moment is now.

hi friends, it’s me… it’s really me…

you could say that the previous scenario is a great capture of the past couple months while at the same time completely an accurate picture of today

life has been crazy, and you know what happens when crazy meets this girl? I go all perfectionistic again… I see nothing but my shortcomings, all the things I haven’t gotten done, and the ways I failed at those goals I wanted so badly to achieve.

you ever been there?

If so, come… join me… let’s sit on this couch together and just bare our souls to one another.

Friends, we aren’t in this alone – no matter how much that evil one whispers that into our hearts.

life isn’t easy

especially if you’ve surrendered your life over to the Lord

why? because we’re in a war… a real, hard core, nasty war…

I’m afraid that all too often we get all caught up in fighting it… fighting it ourselves… without being armed for battle

last night, my husband and I went out for a much needed date night and saw “War Room.”  (If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this.  Google the next showing, and put it in your calendar.)

at any rate, my heart was convicted as the scenes unfolded before me

life has been hard lately – not a bad hard as in “I hate my life” but more like, “I’m just completely overwhelmed and can’t seem to catch a break.”

and it’s dawned on me… I know why I have been overwhelmed, tired, stressed to the max.  Truth is there has been something hard at every turn, but rather than turning it over to my Savior and Friend in my own War Room, I’ve taken it up myself.  oh, I went through the motions of praying about it but not relinquishing control… of not resting in my Father’s arms just knowing He’s a good, good Father…

that’s all I have for tonight sisters… just me sitting on my couch in the peace of my finally quiet house as I share what God’s laid on my heart

and I’ll be honest, before I head up to bed… there’s a temporary War Room being set up right here and now… I need it, desperately

finally home

A few minutes ago, I closed the car door, checked the mailbox and greeted my kitty as he ran up the walk to our front door.  It was a great weekend away with one of my girlfriends at a women’s conference. Upon opening the front door, I was welcomed with the most wonderful feeling – home.

I don’t know about you, but “home” is a word that I have struggled with over the years.  For me, the reason is simple.  I moved more times in the first 25 years of my life than I can count on two hands.  And I’m not just talking a move across town or to the next state.  I’m talking out of country and later across the country kind of moves.

This left me feeling a little lost not only culturally (I mean, c’mon…  what is normal y’all?!) but emotionally as well.  I almost felt as if I had left bits and pieces of me behind with every move.

But how I longed for home.  A place of comfort and rest.  A place where I felt welcomed.  A place I could be myself and it would be ok.  A place that I could always come back to.  A place where life was lived and I was a part of it and I mattered.

It was today, as I closed my car door, checked the mailbox and greeted my kitty – not to mention the flowers that are dying because I over-watered then under-watered them – that the truth hit me.

I am home.

No, I don’t just mean that I am at a physical address where we reside.  I’ve had plenty of those in my life.  No, I’m talking about a knowing, a feeling, a welcoming into a place where I can be myself.  A place where life has been lived – the good, the bad, and the everyday sacred.  A place that my husband and I are building together.  A place that we value deeply.  A place we welcome others with open hearts and arms.  A place where perfection is overrated and grace is extended.  A place where we seek Jesus and live out our faith.

A place where it’s not always good, but we know the One who makes all things good.

And we fully trust Him.

Patiently.

Joyfully.

Expectantly.

How beautiful it is to know this place is my own! How blessed am I that God chose to redeem that broken place in my life!  That He has given me a bit of heaven on earth in this home of mine.

Home matters to me.  It’s a place I’ve always longed for.  And today I realize that it is no longer a dream. It’s a reality.

I am overwhelmed by how redemption has played a part in something that many may call trivial.  But God knew it mattered to me, and He has lovingly blessed me.

He’s a good Dad, and I love this home He’s given me.