Tag Archives: books

Memory Book and Goals

4 Apr

As I was driving to work yesterday, I realized that March was over and I had not yet completed my goal of trying Bikram yoga. Whoops. So I penciled it onto my training schedule for Sunday, April 22. (Next Sunday is Easter and the next Sunday is the Platte River Half Marathon!)

Since April is here, I need to start working on my April goal – finishing a memory book of our first 5 years of marriage.

Just last Thursday on our way to the airport, Travis and I were trying to remember the last time my parents had been out to visit us in Colorado. It took some digging around in our brains but little by little, we pieced it together. I had shown them our new bedroom curtains… we had Charlie… we spent a lot of time cooking and baking… Travis and my dad thought about fixing the car but decided against it… oh, they were out here for last Thanksgiving!

That happens often. Holidays and vacations blend in to one another and it’s hard to remember what you did one year. Or if you do remember what you did, you can’t remember which year it was!

Enter the memory book. I envision this being similar to the race memory book I created. I don’t have a picture but it’s pretty straightforward: I print out my race report from the blog, three-hole punch it, and stick it into a binder labeled “Race Memories”. I slide my race bib into a sheet protector and stick that in after each race report. Easy.

For the memory book, I’m going to include all of the big holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day – plus other special times like our wedding anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, vacations, etc.

Once I copy the blog posts, I’m going to read through each blog post and add any extra details I can think of, then go through my boxes of sentimental keepsakes and add any that pertain to the specific holiday/trip/day.

After all that hard work is done, the trick will be to keep updating the book. I am already failing on this account for my race memory book so the odds aren’t good. But that’s why having a blog is so handy! All those fun trips and times are recorded here on the interwebs, just waiting for me to put them in my book.

………………..

On another note altogether, I have decided that after the marathon is over, I am going to free my weekends up from workouts. I have so many projects and things that I want to do around the house, and to the house, that it’d be nice to not have weekends dominated by running and recovering. I do still want to keep running and biking (have to, if I want to accomplish my goals of climbing a 14er and biking 50 miles at once!) but I’ll try to confine that to after work during the week, so I can get stuff done on the weekends.

Running is fun, but it takes up so much time!

………………….

Quickly, an update on my other goals:

…get pregnant.

…run 700 miles.

  • As of March 31, I was at 179 miles. With marathon training, I think this is totally doable.

…finish writing my nonfiction book.

  • I’m still slowing chipping away at writing my book. It’s hard to get up early because I’m so tired in the mornings but I’m really trying to go to bed sooner.

…read 27 books (one more than in 2011).

  • I’ve been really slacking on the book reading (I’m only up to 5 completed, thanks to copious re-runs of NCIS) but I am still listening to Harry Potter audiobooks and am about halfway through the fourth book. I am also currently reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, which is really interesting. I want to read Blink too!

…consistently track my workouts so I have accurate totals on 12/31/12!

  • I have been obsessively tracking my workouts on MapMyRun.com but am contemplating switching over to RunningAhead.com. MMR has been stupid lately with not loading or mapping courses correctly so I’m kind of over them. But… I want all of my training records to be in one spot. So what I’ve been doing is continuing to track my workouts on MMR but mapping courses using RA. Whatev. It works for now.

…grow in being a loving, supportive wive to my amazing husband.

  • I helped Travis with yardwork the past two weekends so I think that counts as being a loving, supportive wife. 😉

{Sidenote: I also realized yesterday that I was quite ambitious when making my goals at the beginning of the year. Especially with wanting to get pregnant, I need to be open to the fact that some of these may or may not happen (ahem, 50 mile bike ride and 14er hike). I’m going to give it the ole college try but I’m also aware that things change and I need to adapt.}

Are you sticking with your 2012 goals/resolutions?

Happy Hump Day!

Favorite Things

23 Feb

My blog friend Danielle is hosting a Favorite Things Link up!

Here are a few of my favorite things:

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I have read this devotional almost every morning for the past 5 years and STILL love it.

All books by C.S. Lewis 

He was a genius. If I could meet anyone in person (besides Jesus Himself), Lewis would be the person I’d pick.

Nike Zoom Structure Triax

This is my 4th pair of these shoes and they still treat me well. Although, I recently read that the Mizuno Wave Riders are good for wide feet and high arches so I might look into those.

Quaker Oatmeal Squares

My favorite cereal EVER. But I only buy it when it’s on sale but it’s against my morals to buy a $5 box of cereal. Kidding.

My dogs

Even though I get frustrated with their bad behavior, I absolutely adore my furbabies. I think they’re the cutest dogs ever.

This race picture My Brooks Speedy Bullet Jacket

I have worn this jacket for every single run I’ve done outdoors in the past 4 weeks and have been surprised time and again at how well it keeps me warm, even though it is windbreaker thin. Worth all $108 I spent on it.

And that race pic from the Snowman Stampede last Saturday? Priceless. (Was I praying to not die? )

The Subaru Forester

I heart the newest version so much. And I feel so out of place in Colorado without a Subaru. That is the color I would want too. As soon as our Focus dies…

Sushi

We’ve found two great places for sushi in Denver: Namiko’s in Arvada and Sushi Uokura in Golden. We almost always order a California roll, but I like to try new rolls and honestly, I have yet to have a sushi roll I didn’t like.

…………………..

What are some of your favorite things? Head on over to Danielle’s blog and join the link up!

Ambitious much?

12 Jan

This week has been very standard at work: nothing to do. But for some reason, I come home from work just exhausted. I have grand ambitions of working on a project I want to get done or reading a book but the only thing that seems appealing is getting my workout done as fast as I can and then spending the rest of the night glued to the couch and TV. Ever have a week like that?

Last week, I was thinking about my goal of reading 50 books in a year. I did the math the hard way – taking 50 books divided by 12 months and carrying the 2 – when I could have realized my over-ambition quite fast by taking 50 books into 52 weeks. Hmmm… that equals out to be almost a book a week. Every week. All year long.

Suffice it to say, I am revising my goal to simply Read more books than I did last year. Which cuts it down to 27 books instead of 50, but that’s still a book every 2 weeks. More realistic but (I think) still tough, especially when I have weeks like this where reading feels like the last thing I want to do.

The whole point of the goal is not just to read. It’s to be more intentional about doing something I enjoy (and I just like making goals). Treating myself like a Nazi is not something I enjoy. A goal too lofty would make me feel incredibly guilty for doing anything but reading, and ruin the very purpose of creating the goal in the first place.

This makes me think of a question I read in an interesting blog post and article the other day: When does self-improvement stop being beneficial and start being a hindrance?

The whole idea behind making goals at the new year, I think, is to be more intentional about how you’re spending your time. Instead of just thinking about how much you’d like learning how to paint, or to speak Japanese, or to run in 10 states, you put some action behind it. Make your dream a reality. Use your time wisely.

But the day-in, day-out grind of life isn’t always as inspiring as those first days of a new year are. Hence, the number of unkept resolutions.

So what do you do when the glitter falls off of your goal? When you just see the menial tasks and grunt work actually required to meet your goal, instead of the sparkly prize at the end? Here’s how I look at goals:

1. Goals should be flexible. Life changes. Things happen. You might realize one day that shooting to read a book a week for the entire year is pretty much a pipe dream. So you revise.

2. Goals should be inspiring. If you’re saving for a trip to Paris, put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your wall at work. Learn to speak French. Go eat a croissant and tell yourself that it’ll be 1,000 times better in Paris. Watch movies set in Paris. Keep a picture that reminds you of Paris in your wallet, so that every time you’re tempted to spend money that you should be saving, you hold out for the greater prize. Don’t just grunt your way through life – be inspired.

3. Goals should have a “why.” If you don’t know why you want to lose weight, or take up a new hobby, or cook more at home, it’s very easy to give up when you encounter resistance in the form of brownies, laziness or takeout food. Having a “why” also provides fodder for your inspiration (see #2).

4. Goals should be about more than just the end. Why? Because on your way to the goal, you’re still living your life. And if you’re only focused on the end, you’re missing out on the joy of the journey. Running a marathon someday will be amazing – but it’ll be so amazing because of the miles I ran and time I sacrificed to get there. A goal is an accomplishment because you stayed focused over an extended period of time for a specific result. It’s the work that got you there that’s impressive. Also, if you’re solely focused on the end of your goal, what happens when you reach it? Goals aren’t the point of life. A goal is just a tool that helps you make positive changes in your life, for your overall joy.

5. Goals should be filled with grace. There are days when you slip up and eat 2 slices of cake even though you’re trying to drop some pounds. Or you skip your run even though you’re training for a race. Or you veg and watch TV every night after work for a week even though you’re trying to read more. Some days you just need a break. And that’s ok. Use the break to think about your goal – Is it still worth it? If so, why did I do what I did? What can I do in the future to prevent it from happening again? Or should I revise my goal to make it more realistic or joy-giving?

 

In my case, I’ve been reading a pretty mentally-challenging book (One Thousand Gifts) and while I’m really enjoying it, sometimes I just want an easy novel. That’s why I’m drawn to TV over a book – I don’t want to think, just veg. I think easy novels can serve that purpose too. While I’m trying to break my habit of reading more than one book at once, sometimes you just have to make an exception (see #5).

How do you stay motivated for your goals?

Rest, finally.

22 Nov

Well friends, I finally got my restful weekend. Even though elk hunting back in October was supposed to be the end of the busyness, it wasn’t really. We still had a bunch of crap great stuff to keep us busy on the weekends, like butchering and vacuum-sealing animals, running errands, and fun stuff like dinner with friends and volunteering.

So when I had a whole Saturday with nothing planned and a Sunday with only church and dinner with friends (that ended up being postponed because one of them got sick), I saw my chance. A weekend of rest. 

I had to act fast. I made sure to ask Travis what he had planned, just in case he was staging Antelope Butchering Part 22 and expecting my willing participation. (Yes, we still.have.meat.to.cut.up. Will it ever end?!?!)

Once I was relieved to know that my vacuum-sealing skillz would not be needed, I then decided to figure out the bare minimum of things I had to accomplish on the weekend, in order to maximum the amount of time my butt could be glued to the couch.

I figured I needed to clean our house, go grocery shopping and get my two workouts in (5 mile run one day, 60 min cross-training + strength another). I probably would have just ditched the house cleaning, except I thought we were having dinner guests Sunday night, and my parents are coming into town today! I also only buy enough produce to last us a week and I can’t not have apples and bananas to eat for snacks, so grocery shopping is also necessary.

I decided to grocery shop on Saturday (because everyone and their Grandma goes to the grocery store on Sunday) and clean on Sunday (because dog hair mysteriously appears 30 seconds after I clean anything so it’s best to leave as little time as possible between when you clean and when guests arrive).

Anyway, my plan worked perfectly. Friday after work, I did a quick 3 mile tempo run and then promptly did nothing else for the rest of the evening besides drink wine and watch TV.

Saturday, I didn’t get to sleep in (because Katy got up at 6:45 and groaned at me to feed her) but I didn’t expect to (because Katy does that every morning) and actually read for a couple hours. I was able to finish The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg before it was due at the library. I really enjoyed it. But around 8:30, I fell asleep on the couch and at 9:30, I went back to bed. 🙂 Travis and I finally got up at 10:30.

Then I had breakfast, read some more, called my mom and friend Amy who’s living in California right now, tided up the office, typed up my notes from another library book (Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver – also good), went on a run with Travis and the pooches, and then Travis and I went out to eat at Pho Fusion, where I tried Pho for the first time. It was good but meh in my book. I’m not that much of a soup person and I don’t really like cabbage or celery so it’s probably just my weird quirks.

After dinner, Travis and I went to the grocery store and bought food for the week and Thanksgiving. It’s so much more fun going to the store when Travis comes with! We bought some gummy bears (for me) and ice cream (for him) to enjoy while watching Yogi Bear. I love, love, love animated movies so whenever I have the chance to rent a movie without Travis’ input, that’s what I usually choose. It was a cute movie – not my favorite, but I laughed a lot.

Sunday, we went to church, ate lunch and then I laid on the couch watching football for a little while. When Travis got up to go do stuff, I decided I should probably get started on laundry  and cleaning. Around 5, I went swimming and did yoga. After that, I finished cleaning, finished almost all of the laundry, and went to bed around 10.

Overall, it was a very nice weekend. I don’t think I could handle an entire weekend of doing absolutely nothing – I like having a balance between rest and productivity.

I am really looking forward to the holiday weekend – great food, great time with my parents, and lots of relaxing!

What I picked up…

31 Oct

Saturday morning, I made a very necessary run to Walgreen’s for coffee and then spent a long time in the morning researching in the Bible what I wrote in my recent post on grace. I think this is going to be the hypothesis or main focus of the book I’m slowly attempting to write.

After getting dressed, I decided what to make for dinner (usually I choose 3 recipes, but this time, I chose 4 because of the little butternut squash from our garden I want to use up):

Minted Rice with Garbanzo Curry

Chicken and Dumplings

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Then I made my shopping list, and went to my favorite grocery stores: Sunflower Farmer’s Market and Safeway.

Here’s my haul:

Pantry Items: 2 loaves of bread, instant brown rice, condensed tomato soup, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, garbanzo beans, raisin bran granola, Multi-Grain Cheerios, Hint of Salt Triscuits, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, butternut squash puree, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom condensed soup, dried apricots, walnuts, chocolate chips (which I realized after I took this pic should have been included with the baking stuff)

Baking Goods: 2 cake mixes (bought to make these easy pumpkin cupcakes and they were Buy 1, Get 1 Free), Bisquick, brown sugar, white and semi-sweet chocolate chips (also B1G1)

Produce: baby carrots, Honeycrisp apples, bananas (usually I buy more than this but we have quite a few vegetables left over from last week)

Perishables: shredded Parmesan, shredded mozzarella, half & half, pepperjack cheese, roasted red pepper hummus, mint leaves

In case you’re curious, I spent a little less than $100 on all of that (plus sandwich bags and Febreze, unpictured).

Then I checked out more books from the library than I could possibly read before their due date (thank goodness for online renewal!):

I started reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge and LOVE it so far.

I also set out our green tomatoes in the sun to ripen.

{Notice Katy in the window – that’s how she alerts us she wants to come in.}

Instead of diving right into the books though, I went on a 3 mile tempo run with the dogs (32:43) and then did the first 30 minutes of YogaX.

Saturday night, we babysat a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old for some friends. It was so much fun! As I sat by the 1-year-old’s crib waiting for her to fall asleep, she rolled over and I was struck by how much they are little people, with little quirks and personalities. And I realized, if I can be so fond of someone else’s kids, how much am I going to love my own kids someday, whether they are biological or adopted! I am still praying for the grace to wait patiently until the time is right for us to try. Soon…

Sunday, we went to church, ate lunch (leftover Tortellini Soup, which was delicious but very rich – would be good as a small appetizer instead of the main course, or with less cream), and after starting laundry and cleaning the bathrooms, did Travis’ favorite thing – shopping. Like a lot of men, he is very hard on his clothes and has one by one destroyed his good work jeans by either getting them irreversibly dirty or wearing  holes in the knees, until he was down to one pair of jeans. So shopping it was. I was also on the hunt for a pair of skinny jeans to wear under my new boots.

We looked at the thrift store first because I have been able to find a lot of good deals there for myself, but there wasn’t a good selection. So we headed over to the Eddie Bauer outlet at Denver West. Travis has had luck there in the past with finding jeans that don’t have holes or any weird washing technique. Often, men’s jeans are very “trendy” and Travis is not. So he sticks to brands like Wrangler, Carhartt, and Eddie Bauer.

We found a couple of great pairs of jeans on the $19.99 rack – it was such a good deal, I was worried that they had been misplaced there (having worked in retail myself and seen that happen many a time). And I was right. They rang up at $49.99 each. But when we said that we had found them on the clearance rack, the clerk was amazingly nice and gave us the sale price. I was floored. He saved us $60!

After that, I asked Travis if I could take a quick detour into a store called Papaya. It looked a lot like Forever 21 and I found that the prices were similar as well. I found a pair of skinny jeans for $24 that fit me well. They’re just a little bit long, so they bunch up around my ankles like this, but since other people wear them that way, I guess it’s ok… Sometimes I feel like such a poser wearing fashions like that! I even felt like the girl manning the dressing room at Papaya gave me a look like “What are you doing shopping here?” I guess I am almost 30… And when I shop at stores like that, I have to get over any hangups I have ever had about pants sizes because the reality is, when a size 6 adult woman shops at a store for juniors, she’s going to be more like a size 11. (Is it just me or have juniors pants gotten smaller since I was a teen? I mean, who can possibly wear those size 1 pants?)

I told Travis as we were leaving that I’m going to be sad when I can no longer shop in stores like that, either because I’m too old or because I can’t fit into anything, because those stores are so cheap! Shopping in adult stores meaning paying adult prices. Ugh… I don’t want to grow up. 

After our shopping trip, I called my mom, finished laundry, cleaned the rest of the house and then went on a 4 mile run (43:30) with Travis and the dogs. The pooches were still exhausted this morning!

Have you read any good books lately? Do you ever feel weird wearing trends?

I got tagged!

28 Oct

Lisa over at Cow Spots and Tales recently tagged me with two awards: The Versatile Blogger and I Dig Your Blog Award. I feel honored! Thanks Lisa!

What follows now is that I tell you 10 fun facts about myself. I may have used them all up for my birthday post, but here goes:

1. My favorite TV show of all time is Bones. If DVD sets of television shows didn’t cost me the arm I use for the TV remote, I would totally own every season. The season premiere this year is November 3rd. Can. not. wait.

2. It never even crossed my mind to move to Colorado until I got engaged to Travis and that was one of the grad schools he looked at. I always thought I’d move somewhere like NYC or Chicago, since that is where a lot of magazines and publishing houses are. Colorado has treated us well!

3. My favorite season is fall. I love being outside on a sunny fall day, the leaves changing and falling into big piles, wearing a thick wool sweater and doing “fall” stuff – like picking out pumpkins, drinking apple cider, sitting on hay, going to football games, etc. I’ve been too busy to any of that this year! (Boo on busyness.)

4. I used to hate dogs. Like “Don’t come near me, you slobbery, disgusting, stinky mess.” Even before we got Katy, I was very picky when it came to dogs. I liked some dogs, but not all dogs. I prayed for a long time that God would recognize my weird phobias and give us the perfect dog. And He did. Katy has been amazing. Charlie has too, although quite a bit more work. Still, I love those two dogs a LOT.

5. I’m not quite sure if I like hiking or not. I like nature and I like beautiful views but getting to the top is not always pleasant. Regardless, I still go on hikes because Travis enjoys it and we can do it together. I just need to learn how to keep a good attitude!

6. I worked at a drug store in high school. On Sundays when I worked 9-6, the pharmacist would give me and another girl a little “quiz” with trivia facts like what temperature does water freeze at. Whoever won got to choose whether they wanted to vacuum or refill the vial bins (which was a lot of work). We were pretty evenly matched. I usually wanted to do vials.

7. My dream vacation is to go to the Mediterranean — Italy, Greece, Spain, France. A coworker just went to Slovenia and Croatia and said it was absolutely beautiful. If I could go nowhere else, I’d choose there. And if I had to choose a country, it would probably be Greece – why? Because I love Greek food and it just looks like it would be awesome to visit!

8. My favorite author is C.S. Lewis. I haven’t read nearly all of his books but I have re-read some of the classics (Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Weight of Glory) and they are even better the second or third time around. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven!

9. I dislike strength training and weight lifting. I would much rather do hours of cardio than spend 30 minutes doing lunges, bicep curls, and other various exercises I have heard about but would probably kill myself doing. I wish I liked weight lifting… but I just don’t. So that is the one form of exercise that I have to force myself to do because I know it’s good for me. The rest, I really enjoy doing!

10. I am obsessed with cereal. If I could eat a balanced diet of cereal for 3 meals a day, I totally would. Some people crave ice cream – I crave cereal. When I am eat for emotional reasons, I eat cereal. I just LOVE it. I don’t know why. My favorite kinds are Honey Bunches of Oats (best with peaches), Oatmeal Squares, Frosted Mini Wheats, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Kashi GoLean Crisp.

So there you have 10 “fun” facts about me.

And now, I need to pass the kudos on to 10 blogs that I (truly!) dig (and stalk) and find versatile:

B at B. in the Know

Ana Helena Campbell

Brie at Brie Fit

Kristina at Kristina J.

Jen at She Collects

Katie at True Things

Callie at The Wannabe Athlete

Sarah at Once Upon a (L)ime

SkinnyRunner

Kate at Fitting Into the Windy City & My Clothes

If you don’t want to participate, I won’t consider you a curmudgeon. I’m sure your blogs have been nominated a lot more often than mine has!

Goodbye reading goal?

23 May

This weekend was extremely productive. For some reason, I have started waking up without an alarm clock. I still set it because I’m very wary of this alertness before the crack of dawn. So after going to bed at 10:30 on Friday night (because I was absolutely exhausted), I woke up at 7:15 on Saturday. After watching the morning news, getting in the Word, eating breakfast, and waking Travis up for our bike ride in Boulder, I gave both pooches a bath and dyed my hair. (I used the new Clairol Nice ‘n’ Easy Foam color – it was very easy to use and I really liked how my hair turned out… except that it’s almost the same color it was before I dyed it.)

Then came our bike ride in Boulder – 17 miles around the Boulder Reservoir. I’m very proud of my husband for surviving it, considering he hasn’t ridden a bike in a couple of years. And I was very pleased with our time: 16.73 miles in 1:04. I’ll ride faster during the race because I was purposefully riding slower than I would have for my husband, who was riding an old mountain bike. So not only was he not in biking shape, he was riding a heavy, knobby-tired hunk of metal. Isn’t he the sweetest for coming with me?

After our bike ride, we ate lunch at Harpo’s Sports Grill (we had a gift cert), then went home where Travis mowed the lawn and I went to pick up my prescription (and a few other non-essentials) at Walmart. Travis had suggested I buy him a gun safe as an anniversary present so we went to Gander Mountain for that, and then to the liquor store for tequila so we could make frozen margaritas with our new full-size blender (Travis’ present to me). Mmmm…. margaritas.

On Sunday, I got up at 6:30 to run 5 miles, then we went to church, REI, and then the nursery to buy plants for our vegetable garden. After planting and fencing off our vegetable garden (no pooches allowed!), I went to the grocery store, finished doing laundry, and went to bed at 9:45. Whew!

One unfortunate side effect of this busyness, however, is that my reading has plummeted to being almost non-existent. In the past month and a half, I haven’t finished a single book. I’ve read maybe a grand total of 30 pages. Sad day. Part of the reason for my hiatus has been that reading mentally stimulating books when I have a thousand things going on just isn’t possible. I can’t engage with the book. Instead, I end up either reading the same paragraph over and over or reading several pages only to realize I’m completely lost. The other part of the reason is that it just isn’t a priority right now — and it’s not going to be until life slows down a bit. What happened to the days and nights on end of having nothing to do? Oh wait, they all got channeled into my time at work.

It doesn’t look like it’s going to better any time soon either. This coming weekend, we’re camping and while I might be able to fit some reading time in while Travis is fishing, it will be minimal. The weekend after that is my first sprint triathlon, the Boulder Sunrise; the weekend after that is the Greeley Sprint Triathlon; the weekend after that, we’re going to visit friends down in Divide, CO; and the weekend after that, we might have a barbeque at our house. There is some downtime in there and I am for sure going to need some rest after doing back-to-back triathlons – but it’ll probably come mostly in the form of naps. I am really looking forward to a weekend with nothing we *have* to do (if it ever comes…) so that I can sit down with a book and relax.

I do feel God’s blessing in the midst of this busy season, though. Having learned that I am only called to be faithful in doing what God has assigned to me for the day and leaving the rest to Him has given me unexpected energy when I feel like I should be dead tired, overwhelmed, and mopey. Instead, I have excitement, enjoyment, and hope. In fact, I actually enjoyed digging in the dirt yesterday to plant our garden. I am very excited to see the plants grow and produce fruit (I’ll post pics and more info later). It makes me feel like I’m really taking advantage of God’s bounty and joy in creation. Plus, I love fruits and vegetables!

All that say, whereas I had been contemplating the goal of reading 50 books in a year (the past several years, I’ve only averaged 25 or so), that goal may have to be sacrificed for some peace and sanity. Goals are just a means of achieving what you really desire and value. They are not ultimate. God, and the joy found in Christ, are.

The Simplicity & Difficulty of Connecting with God

4 Apr

Last Friday and Saturday, I didn’t want to get in the Word. I really just wanted to read a good book, one with new ideas and words I hadn’t read before. I didn’t want the usual formula of my morning: read the Bible, pray, meditate. So on Friday, I took a walk. It was a beautiful morning and I reveled in the sunshine and warmth, very thankful to God for His creation. “See?” I said to myself. “I don’t need the formula. I can connect with God many different ways.” But a little voice said that if I didn’t read the Bible and pray for others, my time with God was incomplete. Sure, I could connect with Him in nature but it wasn’t sufficient.

Saturday, I read The God Hunt by Karen Mains for a couple of hours in the morning, then some more in the afternoon, then some more at night. I felt my childish rebellion welling up inside in response to the responsible voice that talked about reading the Bible and praying: “I want to just read a book! Why can’t I just do what I want to do?” Reading The God Hunt was in some way, a rebellion, a way of staking my claim to how I wanted to spend my day. I wanted to read a book, not the Bible. I wanted to sit in silence, not pray.

As I was reading the book before I went to sleep Saturday night, Karen Mains was talking about setting up “ducks,” what I have normally called cairns, rocks stacked on top of one another to delineate a path and keep a hiker on the right track. But instead of setting up physical ducks, she was setting up spiritual ones to keep her on the right path with God and reminding her to look for Him. Her spiritual cairns were Bible study, prayer, personal liturgies, memorizing Scripture, etc.

Instead of being a curmudgeonish chore, studying the Bible is a way for me to “keep the object I am hunting within my spiritual sightlines,” to remind myself that “as I moving forward…what I am looking for is God’s work.” God’s work. His touch and presence in my life. Him seeking and finding me. Was I basing my relationship with God on how much I pursued Him?

Then on Sunday morning, I awoke with the cold I had felt developing the previous night. It hadn’t gotten as bad as I expected; I was still well enough to go to church. But I was groggy, sleepy, and short-tempered. Even the bagel crumbs falling to my skirt in the light breeze outside Panera irritated me. As we arrived at church and sat in our usual spot, the worship music started. The first song was one I didn’t particularly like, then second song was a new one that I “didn’t have the energy to learn.” I stood there lamenting how tired and sick I felt, worried about who I would talk to during the five-minute break, and worried about meeting Ana Helena after church to talk to Gerry, a new member who had just moved from the Congo, about teaching him ESL. I heard my usual voice of self-pity, “I’m just so tired. I don’t feel well. I can barely even concentrate on singing. I can’t wait to go home.”

As I stood there, half singing the songs, I remembered something I had read in Practicing His Presence:

One of the mental characteristics against which I have rebelled most is the frequency of my “blank spells” when I cannot think of anything worth writing, and sometimes cannot remember names. Henceforth I resolve to regard these as God’s signal that I am to stop and listen. Sometimes you want to talk to your son, and sometimes you want to hold him tight in silence. God is that way with us, He wants to hold us still with Him in silence.

If I didn’t feel up to singing, could it possibly be God’s way of telling me to just listen, to just enjoy His presence? If I didn’t feel like searching for God and straining to uncover God’s word for me that day, could God be reminding me that He will meet me with rich blessings?

I stopped singing and closed my eyes, listening to the harmony of voices lifted up to God. Then it became clear: I had been basing my encounters with God on how “up to” the Christian life I felt, how much I felt like I could handle, how dedicated I felt, how ready to obey I felt. I was still trying to find the strength and stamina for the Christian life in myself. Why else would being sick and tired feel like a setback or hindrance to God’s work in my life? If I were truly relying on God for everything, I would be just as ready to obey God in sickness as in health, in bad times as in good. My circumstances would have no sway on my readiness to see or respond to God, because the ability to do so would be bound up in Him—and He never changes.

I was once again reminded of my alternate translation of 2 Corinthians 16:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in humility.” It is true that my self-pity is the reverse form of pride, the opposite of humility. The cure is finding sufficient grace and power in who Christ is for me. Instead of worrying about who I was going to talk to during the break, I could wait and listen for God to speak to me in the moment. And He did: once the break rolled around and Travis went to the bathroom, I saw Renia sitting alone and was actually excited to go over and talk to her. God’s leading. After church, I found Ana Helena and while she went to get her kids, I tracked down Gerry and talked to him about the ESL lessons and furniture for their apartment. God’s leading. It is after situations like this when I am humbled yet again by God, for doubting His goodness to me. I am like an Israelite, who continues to doubt and question God even after all of the times that He has so obviously proven His track record.

God showed me yet again that I can rely on Him for everything. There is nothing I need to live out my faith authentically for His glory besides His constant sufficiency and supply of grace. Even in my intimate daily walk with Him, I don’t need to find the stamina and motivation in myself to seek Him; I need only to ask Him to produce it in me. When I have found myself wanting in spiritual desire, instead of running to God, I have lamented my lack and tried to make up for it in my own actions—or conceded defeat and turned away to do what my flesh wanted to do instead.

Anything that takes me away from intimacy with God, whether sickness, fatigue, or desire to relax, should put up a red flag. Why? Because the idea that it is work to spend time with God, or that I have to choose between rest and Him, or that it takes a lot of striving to connect with God are all lies. God is the epitome of relaxation (Psalm 23:2-3); I find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28); and I only have to draw near to God for Him to draw near to me (James 4:8). As Roy Hession says in We Would See Jesus:

God has made Him as accessible to us sinners as He possibly can…We see the standard of the victorious life above us, and we are quite sure that if we can attain to it in this or that particular we shall be in fellowship with God and filled with His Spirit. But it is the attaining to it which all the time defeats us. And all the time we are climbing so hard the Lord Jesus stands immediately available to us as our Door, open on street level, and we could so quickly enter in if we were willing to bow our heads at His Cross.

Bible study, prayer, worship, memorization—all of these are means to connecting with God, not ends in themselves. How Satan loves to heap guilt on us when we declare that! He knows their power, their use, their effectiveness. He knows that if he can pervert their use and purpose in the minds of believers, we will become in bondage to them and they will lose their beauty, freedom, and glory in aiding us to discover the God who we so long for.

If I find myself feeling condemned by desiring one day to connect with God through nature instead of His Word, it doesn’t take me long to see that I have turned reading my Bible into an end, instead of a means. The only thing that should grieve my spirit is losing my connection with God and I should seek to amend the situation however I can at the moment, instead of promising myself “I’ll get in the Word again tomorrow.” God is available now, in the moment I so desire Him! Don’t tarry, don’t make excuses. Go to Him now. Your small desire is enough. Like Brother Lawrence says, “Just a little lifting up of the heart to God is enough. A little remembrance of the Lord, one act of inward worship…will be fully accepted by the Lord.”

So often when I come to God, I think I need to be in a spiritual mindset, to feel ready to accept truths from God, to be dressed in my spiritual armor, ready for any battle God calls me to. While that does sometimes happen (no doubt God preparing me for His revelations), those are not prerequisites to time with God. I can come to Him when I feel groggy, lazy or grumpy; I can come to Him when I don’t feel like reading, or do feel like reading, or want to take a walk outside; I can come to Him when I am anxious, self-pitying, or short-tempered. He will never acquiesce to my sin or pity but He will always speak to me gently exactly the words I need to hear and show Himself to be the way to peace and joy. God’s dedication to His own glory is the most reassuring thing in the world.

I heart reading.

20 Feb

So I have totally failed at finishing the list of books I posted in January. They’re not completely off the list but they have been ousted by other books that excite me more at the moment. For instance, I had started reading (again) No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton when I was lured away by some books on writing, namely The New Writer’s Handbook. Then I was enticed to read God Is the Gospel by John Piper and currently, I have been sucked it to My Life in France by Julia Child. I hope to still get around to those other books… eventually.

But I have to be careful about my insatiable appetite for reading or it dominates everything else in my life. For instance, I haven’t been working out very regularly lately because I can’t read and run at the same time. I would much rather read a good book than pretty much do anything else. I absolutely love reading. I love learning new things, getting to see into other peoples’ lives, being challenged to look at things differently, and taking journeys to different places.

Every time I walk into a bookstore, I am floored by how many books are in print. It is mind-boggling. Which is why, I have decided more than once in the past several months to break my cardinal rule of reading: not finishing a book. It’s like watching stupid TV shows just because they’re on or finishing a horrible movie because you paid the $1 to rent it; you’re better off cutting your losses in the middle than carrying on in the name of “muscling through.” So if I start a book and it’s pretty bad, or I lose interest because I no longer have questions about its topic of choice, or I’ve found another book that I’m liking better, I table it. If the book was bad, I will not return. If it’s good and I want to read it eventually, it goes on the shelf at my desk, alongside the 15 other books sitting there, half-read, waiting for my eyes to scour each line on the rest of their pages.

At times, I’ve thought about how nice it would be to just be able to absorb the book through its cover in a matter of minutes instead of spending hours immersed in its pages. I’d still get the knowledge but without the investment of time. But I guess that would kind of defeat one of the main points of reading, wouldn’t it? The thrill of the story or argument developing slowly, word after word, paragraph after paragraph, through the physical act of reading.

I have to admit, though, that when I get to a part of the story that is suspenseful, I often skim through the paragraphs to figure out what happened. Once I know, then I go back and read the details surrounding the event. For me, it’s like chewing a piece of Bubbalicious gum and trying not to swallow it. The more I focus on not swallowing, the more I notice the tangy, sour strawberry flavor causing my tastebuds to gush saliva. Then before I know it, the gum is in my stomach.

Do you love reading? What book(s) are you reading right now?

The Savior’s Gift

20 Jan

My reading goal for the beginning of 2011 is to finish all of the books I started simultaneously in 2010. Moreover, I am trying to finish all of these books before starting any new ones (a task which is proving very difficult and less and less appealing the more books I encounter that look really good!). The books in progress are:

  • Soul Craving by Joel Warne (finished reading this on vacation)
  • No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton
  • No Little People by Francis Schaeffer
  • Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • Kiss Me Again by Barbara Wilson
  • The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews (just finished this 2 days ago)

I have mentioned how much I enjoyed Soul Craving before but since I just finished The Traveler’s Gift, I wanted to share what I got out of it. While I love reading and am constantly tempted to read books so fast that I don’t retain hardly anything of what I read, I am trying to be intentional about taking a little time after finishing each book to go back through and write down/think about the points that stood out most to me. So that’s where these thoughts came from.

This book is not a Christian book, though it pretends that it is. It mentions God several times and even quotes a few Bible verses but the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success effectively leave God out completely, while borrowing Biblical principles. How convenient. And how tragic. The way I see it, philosophies about life like these (including Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam) lay out all these great principles but don’t address the 2 biggest issues facing mankind: 1) sin and 2) the power to change.

These issues are actually very much related. Because of the pervasiveness of sin, we need Someone outside of ourselves to redeem us from our sins, as well as empower us to change.  (The links I added explain what I mean by these terms more thoroughly.) In light of those beliefs, I took the liberty of adapting the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success to have a Biblical foundation. I believe that I still captured the essence of each Decision. I have included the author’s wording of each Decision in brackets.

1. [The buck stops here.]

Act with integrity. Trust that God can and will use you and your past for His glory. Be bold in your decisions, led by the Spirit, even if they’re socially unpopular. “Let steadfastness have its effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

2. [I will seek wisdom.]

Use discernment and be intentional about how you live. Bad company corrupts good character. Seek wisdom but “be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil” (Prov. 3:7). “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

3. [I am a person of action.]

Beginning today, I have a new future because I am a new creation. I inspire others when I live for God’s glory by being true to who He has created me to be. I will make the best use of my days because they are gifts from God. Because my future in Christ is secure, I can move forward into each day with joy and energy. I have the Spirit of Christ in me to guide and instruct my decisions. I can be confident in my future because I know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

4. [I have a decided heart.]

I have staked my heart and life on Christ and the Gospel. I am passionate about God. I will awaken every morning with an excitement about the new day God has given me and the opportunity for growth and change. My thoughts and actions will work in a forward motion a la the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14 — never sliding into the dark forest of doubt or the muddy quicksand of self-pity, by the grace of God. I will lay my head on my pillow at night happily exhausted, knowing that I gave my all in service to my Lord and accomplished the work He gave me to do. God has given me a unique dream and vision and I glorify Him by pursuing that dream with vigor, persistence, and faith.

5. [Today I will choose to be happy.]

Today I will choose to be happy because of what Christ has done for me on the cross. I will choose to be thankful for all things; to focus on things that are encouraging, uplifting, and Christ-centered; and to love others. Enthusiasm is faith in action because it trusts God for the success of its actions. I will smile at others and seek to be a blessing to them. I will be slow to anger and quick to listen.

6. [I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit.]

I will forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. I will forgive those who don’t deserve it, don’t ask for it, and don’t even want it. I will cultivate a forgiving spirit by spending time getting to know my Savior more and more. I will die to myself and my selfish desires. I will kill bitterness, conquer resentment, and eradicate revenge through the power of the Spirit. I will forgive myself for failing to be what I want to be, finding hope and redemption in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I will trust in Him to conform me to His image.

7. [I will persist without exception.]

I will press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I will not grow weary in doing good, for I believe that I will reap abundantly in due season. I must not allow myself to get discouraged or be derailed by trials and struggles. I must keep “looking to Jesus” and “run with endurance the race that is set before” me (Hebrews 12). I will endure; I will remain steadfast under trial because of the joy set before me: heaven and perfect unity with God. As a child of God, I must rise above the status quo and dare to do improbable, even impossible, things because “this I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9).

 

As I read and re-read these statements, they become my prayer to God. I know that in myself, I do not have the power to effect this change in my life. But He does. He has a plan for me, He knows where He is leading me, and it is through an intimate relationship with Him that I discover myself, my purpose, and my potential. I hope these words encourage you as well.