Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do you know what you are asking for...

This past weekend Elliott and I went to a training conference hosted by NANC (National Association for Nouthetic Counselors - more info here). We sat under some wonderful and practical teaching about not only being able to help others to work through life issues biblically, but also to better understand personally how to grow to love God more and His Word more.

We attended ten hours of training, it was all so great. There was one moment during the weekend that I felt the Lord helped me understand something life changing. The speaker was giving an example of how to gather data and provide hope when you are working with a new counselee. The scenario he was sharing dealt with a married couple who fought a lot and they were describing their fights. In this example, the husband would explode and yell and throw things while the wife would brood and withhold from her husband things she thought would help her to "get back at him". Obviously not a good situation.

As the speaker walked us through how to gather data so that we won't make fools of ourselves (Proverbs 18:13), he also told us of how he would give biblical hope to a couple in this dire situation. He said that he would tell them that he understands that this is a tough situation, that while it may seem bleak, there is hope because this couple was in the Bible. He would ask if they wanted to see where they were in the Bible, and they did. So, the counselor turned to Ephesians 4:31 and read it aloud.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Then, he said he would turn to the husband and ask him to read it, as he did the counselor stopped him at wrath and began to define the word. From the Greek word "orge" which illustrates the idea of an anger that acts out in an explosiveness, like a volcano. The counselor asked the husband, "Does this sound like you?" The husband agreed that it did. Then the counselor turned the Bible to the wife and asked her to read the passage. She began and he stopped her right after she read the word anger. The counselor explained that the word anger in this passage comes from the Greek work "thumos" and refers to a boiling, simmering rage that calculates revenge. He asked the wife is she thought that was a fair assessment of her responses to her husband. She agreed it was. Then, the counselor provided the hope for change, found in the very next verse, Ephesians 4:32.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The speaker went on to explain the put off/put on principle and how to apply it in a counseling scenario. And there I sat. Amazed. If you are worried about my marriage, please don't be. It wasn't the scenario which was so enlightening to me. It was understanding the biblical definition of the words in that passage. I have known my whole life that I struggled with intense emotional feelings, when I am happy I am super giddy, when I am sad I am very blue, when I am mad you didn't want to be around. Ever since becoming a Christian, with the help of the Bible and some friends, I began the process of calling sin by its name. I was not frustrated, I was sinfully angry. I was not exaggerating, I was lying. I was not relaxing a little, I was being lazy. And so on. It became very evident quite quickly that my main problem was anger.

Once I was convicted by the Word that I needed to change in this area I began praying for God's help to be less angry and more patient. Sometimes it meant that I needed to believe the best and not assume that the person meant to hurt my feelings or insult me. James 3 talks about how difficult it is to tame the tongue, so I would beg God to help me bridle my tongue. I remember seeing a shirt that said, "God keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth!" and wanting it badly! For the past few years I have seen steady growth in this area, things will "roll off my back" and I am less likely to smoulder with a boiling rage, and when I start, I will quickly seek the Lord to squash that growing anger.

And yet, sometimes I still explode. The mess is not as monumental, but the volcanic pressure is there. My words still sting with displeasure when they should be a sweet healing balm. And I was growing discouraged, wondering why I was not seeing improvement in this area even though I had been struggling so hard against it. When the speaker defined those two words, it was like, AH HAH! I have been begging the Lord to help me with my anger problem, and He has. But I have never asked for Him to help me with my wrath problem. I didn't know I had one. Considering that Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things, I guess it would be better to say I refused to see and admit that I had a problem with wrath, honestly, that just sounded too ugly.

So what now? Well, I need to confess my sin in this area, and seek forgiveness from the Lord and my family. Then I need to earnestly seek the Lord and ask for His help as I strive, with help from the Holy Spirit, to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving. Many years of bad habits need to be broken, but with God's help each opportunity I take to be patient and kind and gentle instead of angry and wrathful will be one more step in my progressive sanctification. How sweet the Lord was to reveal my sin, loving me enough to not leave me it in, and full of mercy and grace to transform me into the likeness of Christ.

Now that I know what I am asking for...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When I don't check my email...

Every once and a while I will be so busy during the day that I don't pull open my laptop or check my email on my iPhone. Every time that occurs I find that a few things happen... I play more with my kids, read more aloud, and respond more kindly to situations as they present themselves. Then I noticed two other things... no one died because I didn't get back to their email within a nanosecond and I end up quickly deleting all the junk mail because it has become overwhelming instead of reading each piece as it comes in one by one.

The more I realize the pull of technology on my heart to be distracted and discontent, the more I wonder if I shouldn't pull back even farther from the media so heavily surrounding us. Then I realize I am married to an IT guy in the 21st century and am reminded that one of the Fruits of the Spirit is self-control, not isolation.

Please forgive me if my email response times increase, I promise to still respond!
     If you need me quickly, text.
          If you want to chat, call.
               If you are looking for a yummy cup of coffee, come on over.


Sometimes I don't know what to say. Many of you are wondering if you are reading the right blog. "Denise never is without something to say," you might be thinking. But I assure you, it does happen. Rarely, but it does. :)

Elliott's dad is dying. I feel like I am running out of answers to the question, "How is James?". And yet I get asked all the time lately. I am so thankful for the concern of so many precious friends, I just don't know what to say sometimes. For a long time we have been operating in crisis mode, event to event. We had update after update, new information to share, but now we are just slowing chugging along in a downward, relatively predictable trend. He is dying. We are accepting it.

Tonight I began reading Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey by Deborah Howard. I cried. I feel like I do that so much these days. The tears are not from deep sadness. Instead, facing death makes life seem more real. Decisions made while we are alive determine where we spend eternity when we die. Elliott and I feel at great peace knowing that James was saved in March 2011. We smile slyly at each other every time we hear how when he grows anxious or can't sleep he asks for the Bible to be read aloud, watching him seek after comfort from the Word is so sweet to behold. Our joy over James' salvation also serves to remind me about the family and friends and neighbors who are not yet following Jesus Christ as Lord.

So, I sit hear speechless, complete and polished thoughts seem to be out of my grasp. I am thankful for Romans 8:26-27:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Self control has its rewards...

Many of you know that the last few years have found me in the midst of some crazy medical issues. At one point, I had endured four abdominal surgeries in 20 months and still have some lingering complications. All that has made losing the baby weight from 5 consecutive pregnancies followed by back to back surgeries difficult, to say the least.

A few months ago my wonderful sister-in-law, Tracey, started coming to my house to do some personal training with me. I was super excited because I really wanted to get in shape. Really, really. After a few workouts it became apparent that this was not my season. The pain which had prompted the last surgery came back with a vengeance, crippling me from being able to the daily tasks of a keeper-at-home and homeschooling mom to six little blessings. So, Tracey still comes twice a week, and she gives me an amazing back rub and we share our lives together, spending time talking about the Lord and all He is doing in our lives.

For a while after I discovered that working out was too painful I pouted. Mature, ehe? I have always been able to work out to lose unwanted weight. I really like food and would much rather intensely work out than not eat. And I didn't feel like I ate too much, I wasn't continually gaining weight, just not losing any. I already spend a large part of the day cooking for my large crew and the thought of making something separate for me to "diet" with was mind boggling and discouraging. So, I did nothing. And to no surprise, nothing happened.

Then, in January of this year I caught a stomach virus, three times. The first two times I just felt so wiped out but never got officially "sick". The third time was the charm and I was out for the count and thankful that we guard TV so much than when I need to overdose my children on it so I can lay in bed and feel miserable all day, they are happy to comply. As I was recovering I thought to myself, "This may have be a good start to a diet..."

So, I pondered what I thought I could do to diet... without adding in a lot more cooking or food prep time. I started getting up earlier than the kids (which I should always do but sadly, don't) and eating a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit. I sometimes have a KIND bar (Dark Chocolate and Cherry with nuts). I occasionally have a small greek yogurt with KIND granola. Then, when the kids are eating their breakfast I just read aloud. For lunch I modify what they are having. When we have sandwiches, I leave out the bread and just eat the insides (turkey, avocado, tomato and lettuce), otherwise I either have a small portion of what I make for them or rip up some lettuce for a salad and toss in whatever veggies, fruit or nuts I can find. Dinner is usually a repeat of lunch. Eating out is the hardest, I try to eat only half of the food that is served, or just share with one of the kids.

What I didn't give up: coffee, chocolate and sugar. Coffee is a non-negotiable. Seriously, I am still a mom of six children who are 10 and under. :) Chocolate and sugar I am not refraining from, just trying to be reasonable... instead of two teaspoons of sugar in my coffee, I am trying to do one and a half or less... instead of a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips when I feel snacky or snarky, I only grab two or three and eat them slowly (reminding myself that sweet words are like honey-comb, healing to the bones).

So, after three rounds of stomach virus and 6 weeks of "dieting", I jumped onto a scale today to see if it was making any difference. I was thrilled to see that all the work was paying off... twenty pounds... TWENTY pounds... gone... hopefully for good! And I am encouraged to press on. And I am thankful for my children having an opportunity to watch me struggle with the flesh, and be able to praise the Lord and manifest the fruit of self control.

What do you do to be responsible with food? To stay fit? Any tips? I am sure I have lots to learn! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cleaning makes me happy...

I think when I clean. I sing to myself, or listen to sermons. It feels good to watch a counter that could not even be seen moments before, be unearthed and looking sparkly clean. Ahhhh. Of course, with six littles running around, it never stays that way for very long which is why I took to cleaning at night a few years back. I usually have extra energy at night, a lifetime night owl, and I also figured out that anything I clean at night usually stays clean for 6-8 hours before being destroyed. :)

Our normal "schedule" has been in an upheaval for nearly a year now, since Elliott's dad's wreck in March 2011 and his subsequent battle with brain cancer. We have chosen to spend as much time as we can with E's parents, meaning many days we hop in the car and go instead of staying at home to work on chores. It has been a good and precious time, but you can tell our priorities have been elsewhere when you look around the house. (I apologize in advance for any Lego puncture wounds or overflowing bathroom trash cans...)

So, now to go do some midnight cleaning and potentially rearranging... I am having an organizational challenge... how to keep the handicraft projects within a reasonable and useful location but also not be just obviously out in the open... hmmmm, I will ponder as I dust and vacuum. Anyone else a night cleaner?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hip-hip Hooray...

After nearly all of 2012 without a well functioning, and sometimes completely not working laptop, I am happy to report that things are back to normal in techyville. I thought the first couple of weeks without my laptop were quaint. Then, as I began falling really far behind in emails, I started to be less amused. The last week or two I was finding myself irked by my inability to get to files easily, ones I needed for school or cooking or whatever. Sigh. My files, all 200+ MB of them have not been transferred back yet, but that will hopefully happen this weekend. Ahhhh.

I think this involuntary fast from the land of computers has been good... I was surprised at how much more time I had when I didn't have my little laptop to hide behind. I gained new perspective on when to be on the computer and when it is more profitable to set it aside and focus more intentionally on my husband, children, house chores, ministering to neighbors, etc.

While I am thrilled to have my helpful sidekick returned to me, I am praying that I will remember the lessons and priorities I have learned these past two months. I will strive to not allow my time to be wasted in useless and unprofitable ventures, becoming distracted with blog hopping or what not. What ways do you keep yourself from wasting time on the computer or on the web?