Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Friends in Need

Last Tuesday, I posted something about two dear friends of mine who are in the midst of a trial. There trial is continuing today, and may very well be at its climax.

In lieu of a fresh, long, thought-out post today, I'm writing a plea. Please pray for these dear friends of mine and their newborn baby who is facing open heart surgery today. Please pray for strength for baby Cullin, wisdom for his doctors and nurses, and strength and composure and peace for his dear parents. There are so many people praying for them today, but please, take time to mention them in your prayers, too. I am so impressed by the amount of people I've seen coming to the aid of these dear friends. Most impressively, though, is that our Heavenly Father hears every single prayer uttered to Him on behalf of this precious one.

Please mention Cullin, Jake, and Shea Stoffregen in your prayers today. Thanks ahead of time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Seeing God in Trials

I have two precious friends who are in the midst of a trial right now. Their first child, Cullin, was born on Sunday night with some serious health issues. He has been on nitric oxide and a ventilator, and will have open heart surgery sometime soon.

I can only imagine what they're going through. I can only offer prayers on their behalf, because I simply do not know anything else more powerful. And yet, I read this message from a strong, godly new mom this morning:

"In our weakness, God's strength is so evident. Please continue to pray that God will continue to strengthen precious Cullin."

How many of us would be able to boldly, calmly say those things while facing such uncertainty and heartache? How many of us would ACTUALLY lean on the Lord for His support, and trust that He knows best--when we're actually thrust into the trial?

It's so easy to say we trust. It's so easy to say we'd rely on Him. But how faithful would we actually be to that end?

I am so thankful that I have two special friends, a dear brother and sister in Christ Jesus, who are showing me what it truly means to trust and depend on our Almighty Father. I will continue to pray for their precious newborn, and also for myself--that should I ever be faced with such a difficult and trying moment, that my strength would come from God and my trust would be ever in Him.

Please join me in praying for these two special people and their little boy.

"The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works....Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul form death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord, He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You." -Psalm 33:13-15, 18-22 (emp. mine)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Must-Tell Monday: Musings

There are just some things I don't understand. Ok, there are a lot of things I don't understand, but today I'm choosing to put those into blog format. Maybe you can help me with the answers.

1: Why are women's pants so against pockets? Do designers think women don't need pockets, or that they don't enjoy putting their hands in their pockets? On nearly every single pair of jeans/dress pants that I own, there are either no pockets, faux pockets, or pockets that are sewn-up, and when you tear out the stitch, there's not even room for you to place enough change to get a Diet Coke at McDonald's.

I like pockets. I think lots of women like pockets, otherwise putting pockets in dresses wouldn't be such a big hit. So here's a thought: let's put real pockets on women's pants. Okthanks.

2: Why did Allegra have to go over-the-counter?

During my junior year at Freed-Hardeman, I came down with some ridiculously painful headaches. The on-campus doctor thought I was having migraines, and gave me some medicine in hopes of curing my ailment. They didn't work. So, I went to my hometown doctor and he told me that I had chronic allergies. Actually, he made me feel like an idiot: "You have chronic allergies. How could you not know you have allergies?" Ok, so maybe he didn't say it just like that, but that's about how it felt. Regardless, I've been taking allergy medicine once a day since then. I think it has something to do with life in Tennessee. It hates my sinuses.

After going through Zyrtec and Claratin and realizing that they didn't work even the least little bit, I switched to Allegra. Fortunately, the generic brand was available and so I only paid about $5 for a month's supply. NOW? Now that they've so graciously decided to make Allegra over-the-counter? It's 14.99 for the off-brand, $24 for a 30 day supply of actual Allegra. Ridiculous I say!

3: Why does Diet Coke taste different depending on what form it is in? For instance, Diet Coke out of a can tastes remarkably different from Diet Coke out of a 2 liter. Nothing can compare to a Diet Coke from the fountain at McDonald's--yet Burger King's fountain Diet Coke is mildly repulsive. It's all Diet Coke! Why doesn't it all taste amazing??

4: Why do the signs at malls reserve parking spots for "expectant moms"? I think the sign should say "Reserved for those at least 6 months pregnant", otherwise people will just take advantage. I mean, I'm not pregnant, but I expect to be a mom one day. Can I park there?

5: Why is there a "next" button on Hanging With Friends but not on Words With Friends? It drives me crazy about every day.

6: Why do people feel the need to pull out in front of you and then immediately turn? It's like, "Hey! I'm your dose of patience today!"

7: How did I grow up saying Reese-y's piece-y's instead of Reese's pieces and why didn't someone tell me otherwise??

8: Why is running so awful?

9: Why haven't you started listening to Mindy Gledhill yet???

10: Why don't you comment already? I need answers!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

25 Thanks for my 25 year old

The 8th is a special day for us. Today, May 8, is Robert's 25th birthday. Fast forward six months and you've got my birthday. And in July? Well that's our anniversary =)

However, I am especially thankful for May 8, as it is the day that my wonderful husband entered the world. He wouldn't enter my world for another 20 years, but that's another story!

Today, I want to dedicate this post to my amazing husband. And, if you aren't one for the mushy and lovey-dovey, well hey--here's your chance to bail!

So, 25 thanks for my 25 year old. Where to begin....

1: Thank you for always putting God first. For loving me the way you do because of the way you love Him.

2: Thank you for always preaching the Word, even when it isn't popular or easy.

3: Thank you for being the kind of person I need. Your roles always change--counselor, comforter, companion, friend. I love every single way you love me.

4: Thank you for the last 10 months. Every one is better than the last.

5: Thank you for all the time you spend with me. You do so many amazing things, and I am so thankful you make time for me so often.

6: Thank you for being born on my half birthday. All of my life people thought I was weird for always knowing (and somewhat celebrating) my half birthday. I always knew the day was special. I just didn't realize I'd be celebrating my future husband's birthday all those years.

7: Thank you for being older. I'd never live that one down.

8: Thank you for loving Mello Yello. Our marriage wouldn't be as stable if you drank my Diet Coke.

9: Thank you for being a great teacher. I'd never be able to do what I do without you (and I wouldn't have done nearly as well in Marcus's classes, either--though let's be real, I still would have gotten an A).

10: Thanks for converting me to Mac. Who was I and how did I function on computers before I met you?

11: Thanks for abstaining from most of the Harry Potter bandwagon. It's been lots of fun going down that road together.

12: Thanks for loving children's movies (read: the Muppets).

13: Thanks for not eating the Nutella when I'm not around. You know I'm a little psycho.

14: Thank you for having good taste in music. Without you I wouldn't have Michael Buble or David in my life, and we both know that'd be terrible.

15: Thanks for always encouraging me, even if you mostly just laugh =P

16: Thanks for being so precious with our nieces.

17: Thanks for opening up to games a little more. Quelf sure is a fun one and I'm excited to introduce it to my family.

18: Thanks for tolerating morning Emily.

19: Thanks for being so understanding all the time, even when I'm less than understandable.

20: Thanks for liking all the same things I like at restaurants. It makes eating out so much easier (and cheaper).

21: Also, thanks for liking Rosie's. I don't know that we could have made it otherwise.

22: Thanks for trying all the food I make, and thanks for sticking by me, even after the initial hamburger helper incident.

23: Thanks for not making me ride in Sally very much. I reallllly appreciate that.

24: Thanks for reading my blog all the time even when no one else does. And thanks for being my biggest fan.

25: Thanks for being the love of my life. I don't know where I'd be without you, but I know it wouldn't be as great of a place as where I am right now. I love you.

Oh, and happy birthday!!!!

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Self Worth

Recently, I received a message on my tumblr account from a girl who said she needed some help. I went to her blog and found a post that itemized the struggles in her life. One major theme was self-worth. As I read her words, I felt like she was inside my own head. I nodded along with her as she described her home life, the emphasis she placed on friends, activities, and boyfriends. I saw in her words a glimpse of the person I used to be. I ached for the person writing those words.

That is why I think I need to address the issue of self-worth. It seems to be such a problem in today's society. Maybe it's the media telling girls that they aren't enough: thin enough, pretty enough, athletic enough, girly enough, stylish enough. Maybe it's parents telling their daughters they aren't smart enough or attractive enough--or place too much emphasis on physical beauty rather than spiritual beauty. Whatever or whoever it is, girls are getting the message that they aren't enough.

I was one of the girls that bought into it.

For me, I always had a hard time finding the balance between arrogance and self-worth. I wanted to steer clear of arrogance and pride (because I knew those things were sinful), so I went to the other extreme: I didn't think I was worthy of anything. I didn't deserve to have many friends. I didn't deserve to date someone who treated me well. After all, I was lucky they even wanted to be with me in the first place. If I thought that I deserved better than the way they treated me, wasn't that being arrogant? Wasn't that me thinking I was better than they were? I didn't want to be that way. So, I let myself get kicked to the ground time and time again.

My sophomore year in college changed a lot of things. At the beginning of the year, I was dating a boy who told me that other people didn't think I deserved to be with him--and that he mostly agreed. At the time, I didn't realize that I was groveling and begging him to stay with me. I didn't realize that I was clinging to him to define my own worth. I didn't realize I was letting a boy define me at all. But I was.

When we broke up, I was fortunate enough to have a group of amazing friends to lean on for support. One friend, who is now my amazing husband, spent a considerable amount of time consoling me and telling me that I deserved better. I just shook my head. He'd tell me again. I would tell him he was crazy. This little dance went on for months. It was so hard for me to accept that I was worthy of more.

For those of you who may be struggling to find some self-worth, let me tell you some of the things that my best friend told me. Without him, and without his wisdom and strength, I would probably be married to someone who talked down to me and treated me like he was better than I was. Fortunately, I listened to what my best friend had to say, and now I'm married to a man who loves God more than he loves me, and therefore treats me with love and respect.

1: You were created with worth (Jeremiah 1:5). Before we were formed, we were sanctified--set apart for a specific purpose. As Christians, God has set us apart from the world. Before we were even thought of, God had a plan to save us (and all sinners). You may not think you have worth, but even in the womb God knew you. The fact that the Creator of the universe knew you before you existed and STILL knows you makes you a big deal.

2: God loves you, individually (John 3:16). "God so loved the world"--do you think that's the planet earth? No, it's the people. God loves you, so much, that He sent Jesus to die for you, so that if you believe in Him, you can have everlasting life. When you don't think you're worth it, remind yourself that God Himself left heaven and became a man to die a cruel death for your sins. If Jesus thought you were worth the sacrifice, you are. End of story.

3: Living righteously makes us worthy (Colossians 1:10, Phil. 1:27, Eph. 4:1) When we are fruitful in good works and study and increase in knowledge of God, we are walking worthy of our Lord. The world may not see you as pretty or smart or great or amazing, but when you live a righteous, holy life, you are living a worthy life. Wouldn't you rather be deemed worthy by God than be deemed worthy by this sinful world's standards? When you live the Christian life faithfully, God calls you worthy. Accept it. Meditate on it. Believe it.

4: God doesn't see you as unworthy (Luke 15). We are all sinners. Even at our best, we do not deserve the sacrifice of Jesus. When we wander away from God, we realize this. We may say to God, as the prodigal did in Luke 15, "I am no longer worthy to be called your son". It doesn't matter. God restores us to sonship and gives us a crown and a robe and every blessing. Even though you aren't perfect and will never be perfect, God forgives your imperfections and accepts you into His family. What an honor and privilege to be in the family of God!

5: You may not be worthy, but He is (Revelation 4:11) None of us are worthy. That is why God is to be praised above all. While we were still ugly sinners, God gave us Jesus. Jesus' blood washes our unworthiness away. Coming into contact with Jesus changes every single thing about us. Contact with Jesus made the lame to walk, the blind to see, the dead to rise. Can it not make the unworthy, worthy?

2 Corinthians 6:18 says, "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty."

You are a daughter of the king. You can't tell me that doesn't scream worthy to you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

God Meant It For Good

I stumbled across this post from my tumblr account, and I thought I'd share it with you (mostly because I needed to read it again).

So many times life gets to us. It beats us down, throws rocks at us, hurts us, tramples us. And sometimes it isn’t just life. It’s people. People that mean to hurt us and knock us down and make us feel bad for whatever reason.
Be it circumstance and life, or just mean people, isn’t it the case that we sometimes question God for the bad in our lives? Maybe we don’t only question, we blame. Multiple times in my short life I have heard the question posed, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I feel like I finally have an answer.
Genesis 50:20
But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Joseph’s brothers had contemplated killing him. They sold him into slavery. He was then put into prison after being falsely accused. I doubt anyone would have thought that Joseph’s life was perfect. And you know what? He probably could have complained. He probably could have argued that God wasn’t with him. But is that what the text says?
No. When Joseph’s father dies and his brothers are begging for mercy, Joseph makes that profound statement. God meant it for good. The bad things that happen in life—the evil in people’s hearts, the bad circumstances that he found himself in—God used those things to SAVE people. 
Perhaps you’ve had some terrible experiences in your life. Perhaps life has thrown some nasty curve balls your way. Or maybe, people have done you wrong for no reason at all. Whatever is is, are you looking at that situation and blaming God, or are you looking at your situation and realizing that God could use you to save someone. 
I pray that we all use the latter. 
So your parents got divorced. God can use it for good. So someone you were incredibly close to died. God can use it for good. Don’t limit God. He is writing your story, and He will give you the happiest ending if you’ll walk according to His path.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lord's Supper and Giving--why together?

When I was growing up, it was hard for me to distinguish the Lord's Supper from the time we are giving our contribution. After all, the two very separate things were usually only separated by a prayer---and since the bread and the cup are separated by a prayer, too, it was difficult for my young self to discern between the two very different things.

As I grew older, I realized they were separate, and I wondered why we kept them together all the time. Do we have to? Is it commanded? Is it a tradition that we simply cannot change? I know that the answer to all of those things is no, but recently I've decided that I like that they're together. Today, I'd like to share the reason with you.

First let me say this: I know that MY feelings don't really matter in worship. When I come to worship God, I'm coming to do just that--worship God. Not gratify myself; not invoke some sense of worthiness within me. No, I am coming to honor God and that is that. So whatever my preferences are, well, they really don't matter. I get that. However, I'd like to explore this thought of Lord's Supper and giving because it helps me to worship my God better, and maybe it will do the same for you.

As I said in a recent post, my husband recently concluded a gospel meeting where he talked in depth about the trial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Since that time, dozens of thoughts have been pouring into my head. Perhaps the greatest thing (and a surprising thing to me!) I took away from his lessons was a greater appreciation for giving back to the Lord as is commanded for us to do on the first day of the week (2 Cor. 9).

You see, this past Sunday as I sat in worship, I took the Lord's Supper as I am privileged to do every Sunday. I reflected on my Savior dying on a cross for my sins. I thought about His beaten, mangled body and the blood that flowed out from Him. Though the images that came before my mind were heightened because of the lessons I'd heard from my husband only a week before, it was something similar to the things I'd been doing every week. Then, like nearly every Sunday before, it was time for me to give. Like always, only a prayer separated these two very separate forms of worship, yet because they were so close together together--it had a profound impact on me.

How can you not be a cheerful giver when you think about all that Christ has given for you? How can you be a penny-pincher in regards to the money you are a steward of, when Christ held nothing back for you?

Philippians 2:5-8 gives us a glimpse into the sacrifices Jesus made:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being made in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

If you have been correctly taking the Lord's Supper (and we know we can take in incorrectly--1 Cor. 11:27), then you have been examining the death of Jesus and remembering all that He did for you. Coming off of such a somber moment, how can you not readily and cheerfully give back to the One who gave all for you?

Oftentimes we get distracted--maybe we have to find our checkbook, a child is being restless, or we've been sitting there so quietly that we just let our minds relax. Whatever it is that you think about during the time that you are giving back to God, I urge you to let your thoughts continue on what Jesus has done for you. It was such a rewarding experience for me. It humbled me, and made me feel that much closer to God in what I was doing. Knowing God didn't spare anything, it made me want to give absolutely everything I could to Him--holding nothing back.

I know this isn't earth-shattering. I'm sure this is something you've done for years and years. For me, though, it can become routine instead of purposeful. It can be a no-brainer at times--dropping a check into the collection plate. I urge you to remember, during those quiet moments, what God has done for you. It will be so much easier for you to give cheerfully, and thus worship Him more acceptably. After all, isn't that what it's all about?