Tuesday, February 2, 2016

164: Vday and rambling

This year I'm struggling just a bit with the upcoming Valentines Day. In years past I've been able to console myself with thoughts of a girls party, complete with chick flicks, staying up late, and way too much chocolate and other yummy treats. Maybe it's because I've done that too many times since last Vday, but I would rather the holiday pass me by without party or focusing on love-is-in-the-air.

The last couple months have found me focusing on self-improvement. Thanks to an accountability group set up by a friend in December, and thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit opening my eyes, I came to realize that I could make goals and change what I wanted about myself. I have a strong will and little discipline, so lately I had been resigning mself to who I am, which was appropriate for a season, but now, at long last, and through God's grace, I feel like I can be who I want to be, who God wants me to be. So I've set little goals for myself and am enjoying being more intentional.

I like my life for the most part. My job is fulfilling and time-consuming. It gives me an unending outlet for creativity. Outside of work I have a solid group of girls to have fun with.

But still, Valentines...sometimes I see FB posts by married friends and all of a sudden feel like my life doesn't matter. It does though. But it's different. Their life is different from mine and mine is different from theirs and that is what God has planned, but sometimes different doesn't feel equal in value. Sometimes it feels like they are moving ahead and I am still in the same stage of life I've always been in.

So much of life has nothing to do with a mate. I live. I live life. I hear from God and I move forward and backward and forward again. I make decisions and I depend on God for my sanctification and I interact with kids daily and am thankful that I have the opportunity to impact the next generation even if they are not biologically mine.

But still. Valentines. I don't want to see all of it on my FB feed.

I look at pics from my alma mater and it saddens me to think how little I took advantage of the unique situation of being in a massive coed single community. Do you know how rarely I interact with single male peers? Or even married male peers? It's so rare that that's probably why I'm single--I don't even know how to interact with guys my age! (slight exaggeration)

But then I've also realized lately how rare true fellowship is for me. I've tasted it a couple times in the last couple months and it tasted so...deep. I think I have become shallow the last year or so and I think I did so on purpose. I think I realized I was analyzing guys too much, and so in order to make myself more relaxed, I relaxed everything. Once out of the habit, I avoided meaningful conversation because usually it's over an over-hashed topic anyway, is more academic than practical, and involves disagreement. But oh what have I lost of myself by losing my depth? And so I am re-seeking that.

This is what we call a rambling post :)

Meanwhile, this week is spirit week at school. Today my class all dressed in yellow. Then I had to go out in public in my yellow polka dotted dress, yellow zip-up jacket, and yellow headband. I felt...very bright. But besides sticking out, I think I actually liked looking cheerful today. Not sure if I'll ever do it again though. :)

This ramble was written on my phone. I think that should serve as a bonafide, cover-all excuse.
Goodnight :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

163: fixing people

"In the daily battles of life one can be tempted to give in to depression or fatigue as we see sin and compromising increasing. Yet there is hope. God is sovereign. Nothing is inevitable except what God has decreed. And there is power in prayer." --Peter Hammond, Putting Feet to Your Faith

I see people interact in my life and I cringe. I know what they should say, and I know what they definitely should not say. I know what they should do, and I want to force them not to do what they sound like they are about to do that I know would turn out wrong, wrong, wrong.

I interact with my students, and sometimes my voice raises and hardens as I try. to. make. them. do. what I am asking them to do, and try. to. make. them. stop. thinking about whatever they are thinking about and just learn!!!! (For example, "dogs" apparently are hilarious, especially when pronounced "dawg" and it's been a constant distraction in my classroom since November. Dawg!)

I find myself powerless to make people do what I want them to do. I cannot control other people. I can try, and sometimes I do try, but it doesn't generally work. (Actually, it generally flops pretty badly and sends me repenting to God.)

I cannot fix other people. I cannot force them. I cannot manipulate them to see my point of view, however valid and right.

I am powerless to fix other people. So I must resort to the biggest and only weapon I have--prayer.
"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD,
Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes." (Proverbs 21:1)

I can hunker down in the cleft of the Lord and I can pray that the mountains will fall down and miracles will be done and the power of the Lord will bring change.

Because God can fix people, God does fix people, and right now He seems to be "fixing" my tendency to control and manipulate and teaching me how to practice self-control and prayer.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: With This Ring?

I really don't like short stories, but I love novellas! A novella, as I understand it, is a mini-novel, usually grouped with three others to make a book. With a novella, you get a lot more plot than a short story, but you get to find out what happens a lot faster than a full-length novel.

I just finished reading With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry. The first story--The Husband Maneuver by Karen Witemeyer--is an impossible (as in, it doesn't happen like this in real life) romance (ok, maybe most novels don't happen like real life, but this one seemed more fictitious than some) between a young girl and her dad's ranch hand. She is determined to win him over, but she doesn't realize that he is already interested in her. (I say "impossible" because he is very self-aware and becomes verbal but is the gruff, throw chairs out of the way as she backs against a wall, so he can tell her his feelings before passionately kissing her type of guy.) Good, but fiction.

Next came another very unlikely story--but it's one of my favorite storylines, so I didn't mind! Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings. Two young people have to pretend like they are married (very chaste though!) in order to fool the potentially bad guy. Of course they also secretly like each other, but they don't find that out until the end.

The third novella is Runaway Bride (yes, this title has been used before). It's by Mary Connealy. Need I say more? She is such a good writer! Again, she nails the combo of action and romance. My only problem is it seemed the character development was abruptly cut out to make the story short enough for this collection. And...I'm not going to tell you the storyline. So there.

The last one is Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears, another he-woman heroine like many characters these days, though this time to the extreme. Seriously, that girl needs to read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn or maybe attend the "Love and Respect" seminars by the Eggerichs'. But the guy that falls for her, despite being everything she is not (oh my word, he is such a guy in boasting about how well he can shoot...when obviously she can shoot better...but she lets that one slide, thankfully!), is a good, strong-character guy, willing to take a bullet for her, even though he can't see how many fingers he's holding his eyesight is so bad. It is an interesting romance though--they are so opposite but they can see beyond their differences and truly love each other.

I stayed up late reading this novella collection, so I think I liked it. :) My only negative would be that it's not the kind of book you want to read during the Christmas season when you're single with no prospects. Doesn't help. :P

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Releasing him she took a step back. 'Are you proposing to me, [insert name]?'
'No, I'm not.' His jaw hardened. 'I've got a parson that you done clocked in the head with a hammer to attend to. You wait your turn.'" (Regina Jennings, Her Dearly Unintended)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

162: solutions for the single blues this time of year

I don't know what it is about this time of year. Days before Thanksgiving it started. And not just for me. I was getting texts from others too, confirming that, yes, we were all kinda wishing that we had someone.

Maybe the magic of the season makes us extra sentimental. Maybe the family get-togethers make us more aware that we have no one to bring to the party. Maybe the cold weather makes us want to cozy in front of a fire next to someone wearing long-sleeved, buttoned-up, flannel plaid. Or thoughts of mistletoe and sleigh bells and walking in a winter wonderland are just getting to be a little much, even if you do live in a snow-less area, like I do.

Whatever the cause, it sorta creeps up on you in the cold days and early nights, and one doesn't know whether to jump on Christian Mingle or wait out the storm.

I think it depends.

God has given us desires to make us act. When we're hungry, we go get food. When we're exhausted, we sleep. All desires can be governed by self-control. I don't have to eat and sleep as soon as I'm hungry or tired, but if I had no desire for these things I would have no impetus to act (unless I just knew it was good for me to do so and forced myself forward).

The same thing with this nudging, longing, wishing for someone. It could be a reminder to change something in your life: get out and be more social with single people, let your desire for marriage be known among the motherly types in your church, sign up for a dating site, send a FB friend request, pray a lot more for a spouse.

On the other hand, if you feel an abnormal longing, something that is coming out stronger than usual and more possessive of a present you do not have, the solution might be what I have detected often in my own life: spend more quality time with God. Because sometimes the lack in your spiritual life will show itself by eating at you for SOMETHING, SOMEONE to fill the gap. And in that case, the last thing we want to do as believers is trek out on our own to pursue a crush instead of filling up on the One who has and always will be with us.
"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons."
Song of Solomon 2:3

Along with that, if you are happy with your life, it can help a little to remind yourself that you are satisfied, that you are happy, that God has blessed you. I sometimes catch myself wanting to become more desperate than I actually am.

my class is growing green beans!
On a less substantial note, I've found, in rare occasions, that a couple Hallmark movies back to back can be just the thing to warm the heart and produce a happy sigh so one can get back to normal life.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Bathsheba

What was I thinking in requesting this book to review? It's the story of BATHSHEBA after all.

Bathsheba's story in the Bible is graphic, and Angela Hunt communicates the reality of it. Tamar has her side-story as well. The first half or so of the book I was thinking, "No, I'm not going to recommend this."

But Angela Hunt does what she does so well, she brought all the story of Bathsheba, all the events happening around Bathsheba, into one coherent story about one woman's unexpected life. I never realized how much God disciplined David for his sin against Bathsheba. I never thought how Absalom's rebellion might have affected Bathsheba, whose son was the promised next king. I didn't realize that when David allowed Saul's grandchildren to be executed to satisfy the Gibeonites, that those were Michal's nephews and she would mourn for them. It never crossed my mind that in helping Absalom, Ahithophel was unknowingly fighting the right of his own grandson to be king.

If you want Bathsheba's story to come to life for you, this is a great book! But beware that Bathsheba's story will be brought to life, and her story did not have a pleasant start.

In comparison with my review on Esther, this book did not take a long time to start and did not wrap up too quickly. We know a lot about Bathsheba's life because David's life is well-chronicled. I loved that about this book--the thoroughness of covering her life.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. I have not read the similar fictional biographies by Francine Rivers and Jill Eileen Smith, so I cannot compare them, though I have been told that Hunt's version is much less graphic than Smith's, if memory serves that reader correctly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November Prayer 10 (when I want to bad-mouth others)

Lord, I get so frustrated at people sometimes. Don't they SEE what they are doing? Oh Lord, put a clamp over my mouth so I do not expose my family or friends or acquaintances to others. Let me open my mouth before You and cry out to You for justice instead of venting every detail to another human being. The tongue is powerful, Lord, and I always regret what I say, even if emotionally it felt like I needed to get it out. Teach me more self-control and more dependence on You for my verbal processing of frustration. Show me what to do with my frustration. In Jesus' name, Amen.

November Prayer 9 (for those struggling with being critical)

"You'll not get your man to be the man you want him to be by being critical of him. It doesn't work. You can't criticize him into his destiny." --Miles Weiss

Lord God, You say that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). But You also say that it is better to dwell in the corner of a housetop or in a wilderness than with a contentious, nagging woman (Proverbs 19:13, 21:9, 19). Lord, You know my tendencies. You know the tendencies of the single and married women I know. Lord, we are dripping-faucet women by nature, picking at and trying to change the men in our lives. Father, first I ask that You would teach us to pray. Teach us, married and unmarried, to hold our tongues, wait on You, and seek Your face and Your power for the change we want. It is not by our might to coerce, manipulate, or sanctify, but by Your spirit. Give us discernment when to stay silent, because honestly I struggle knowing what is helpful to say so he knows what I'm thinking (because he can't read my mind) and knowing what is better left unsaid.

I also pray You would teach us contentment. Oh Lord, I struggle so hard with accepting a man how he is. I need You to change me in that area. I want to love and accept a man the way I love and accept a friend--annoyances and all. I want to love him because I love him, not because he meets every qualification. Help my married friends and family to accept their husbands, even if they at times do or say something annoying. Empower us to extend grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

This prayer was inspired by the following Elizabeth Barret Browning poem, believe it or not!

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile . . her look . . her way
Of speaking gently, . . for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'--
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,
--and love so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on though love's eternity.