"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September (and a little bit of August)

We leave tomorrow for our Italy-Scotland vacation, and I wanted to do a recap of the last month so that I don’t forget it. I was going to publish it in October so that I don’t break my blogging strike, but I feel like that would be silly and I think that the strike has served its purpose.

I forgot to mention that I was able to spend two Saturdays at our churches Vacation Bible School in August!  It was so wonderful and amazing, and I am so thankful for the smart, creative women in our church.  We also happen to have more than a few adorable children!  I don’t have pictures, but at the end of it, the kids all battled the “space Pirates” (ie the Dads, including Nick) with water guns, and it was a lot of fun.  Nick had a blast running around and getting sprayed with water!

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My housekeeper Agnesa’s niece, Eva told Agnesa that she would like to meet me and braid my hair.  Braids are very big in this part of Russia and they do really beautiful and ornate braids.  Eva is very talented and she sent me pictures of incredibly ornate hairdos, I picked one, and she came over one day and braided my hair.  It was really sweet of her.

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We discovered Isla loves watermelon as much as her Daddy!

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Isla also discovered that she LOVES to read!  I should be careful what I wish for because all she does is follow me around croaking “booook, book, book” with her favorite books so that I will read to her! I used to dream about sharing a love of reading with my babies, but now I can’t get anything done. Smile

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Mostly we were pretty antisocial, but we did get invited to our friends Tim and Lee’s apartment for dance party Smile, and it was so fun! Isla definitely enjoyed herself.

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September wasn’t all fun.  In fact I felt pretty discouraged throughout most of it.  After this post, we continued to be sick, and I mean very, very sick in different ways from the previous illness. Isla has been very disobedient, and there have been some very hard moments. Nick has been working late, late every night.  And Isla has been regressing in her potty training… in fact, she has had several accidents. Case in point… this picture captures an incident that happened immediately after taking her off the potty! (She also peed on me one time, but I won’t show you a picture of that one!)

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Isla also pulled our iPad off the table, broke the glass and it is going to cost anywhere between $200—$350 to fix. Arg.  This child is getting into everything.  The other day, she went into the cabinet, and I turned around to see her gleefully walking towards me carrying two steak knives!

The other day Isla and I were walking on the promenade and she was about 10 feet away.  I saw her bend down, stick her finger in something and immediately put her finger back in her mouth.  I screamed “no” and rushed over and it turns out that she had stuck her finger in someone’s loogie!  Gross.  Thank goodness she has had her Hepatitis shot! She is a mess.

She also fell and got her first head injury!  We were at a friends house and she was standing right next to me.  She started to walk backwards, two one step, slipped on some Legos, and hit her head on a handle on a drawer.  I thought she was ok until I saw blood!  We immediately called the Doctor and she was fine, other than a big knot and little cut.  The Doctor shaved her head to put a bandage on it, so now she has a little bald spot (in addition to her little baby mullet).

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All in all, I would say that September was a hard month.  The hardest I have had in a while, but these times are necessary for our growth.  It has been a time for me to focus less on my needs and more on making sure that Nick and Isla are happy.  I have always been blessed with such a servant minded husband, and it has been weird not having him help with Isla as much or spend as much time with me.  But at the same time, I have been trying to return the selflessness that he has blessed me with for the past 6 years, and make certain that he doesn’t have any extra stress to deal with besides the stress of his job.

Anyway, I am pretty excited about leaving tomorrow, even though I don’t feel like I have done anything to deserve this vacation.  We are meeting our dear friends Jessy and John from California in Italy and Nick’s sister Tiffany and little Hallie Irene in Scotland, and I know that that time with beloved friends and family will be so good for my soul!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Show Us Your Life: Favorite Bible Studies

I am so excited about this SUYL.  I have never participated before, but this is one that I want to join in on.

I have been blessed to be a part of some amazing bible studies, some in a group, some on my own, and some with just Nick and me.  I have also been in some that felt like a total waste of time. 

I really want everyone who reads this to understand what made these so amazing, and to do that, I shouldn’t overwhelm people with a long post… but I could only narrow it down to four LIFE CHANGING bibles studies that I have done. Sorry folks… I hope someone sticks around to read about all of them!

I mentioned this one before, and it is a must for any Christian… it is not a bible study to tell how to be a better (fill in the blank) or the plans that God has for YOUR life. 

Nope.

This bible study is all about HIM!

My favorite thing about this bible study is how clear it made the bible to me.  It no longer felt like a discombobulated collection of books about God… it made it so clear that God is purposeful and intentional and He has only one passion – to make His Name great among the nations.  And to do that, He must draw all people back to him!

So how does he do it?  Through us, His church, yes…

But he does it in extraordinary ways that we never realized and that we certainly don’t learn about in school.  It was so cool to learn how God has been working throughout history to “knead the dough and spread the yeast thin.” 

Sometimes when Christians get too comfortable and stop going on their own, he up and makes them move to a land of unbelievers!  How many Christians do you know that have moved overseas recently? Winking smile

Or he brings the lost to Christians.  How many nonbelieving ethnicities have moved the United States?

Probably my second favorite thing about the class were the missionaries that visited the class to share their amazing stories!  My favorite was an old man who evangelized a native Mexican tribe that could communicate through only whistles (they also had a spoken language)… I am not kidding.  He did a demonstration for us in class of a conversation in whistles!  It was just so out-of-control COOL.  It also made me glad that I was not called to minster to that particular people group since I cannot whistle to save my life.

Anyway, this Bible Study is just the best!  And it gave me such a purpose. And it revealed to me God’s greatest passion.  Seriously y’all, go find a class NOW!

Ok, so I have made it pretty clear that I think a lot of bible studies are so full of fluff stuff because they tend to be too inner-self focused instead of God-focused.  This bible study is kind of one of those, it is about helping yourself, but it helps you by drawing your thoughts away from yourself and towards the King of Kings.

I never realized just what a “fear of man” that I had until I did this bible study.  I actually didn’t even know what “fear of man” was, and I definitely had absolutely no understanding of it meant to biblically fear the Lord.

It had always been described to me as “respect” of the Lord, which I now think is total hogwash, and I am actually a little angry that it was described to me that way.  To respect a loving God left too much room in my life for the opinions of other. To fear a loving God is to care for His opinions and His alone.

The bible talks a lot about the “fear of the Lord” and it is always considered a very good thing.  It is the beginning of wisdom. It is pure, enduring forever. It is to hate evil.

Conversely the bible calls the “fear of man” a snare.  It is bad, bad, bad.

Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we are controlled by the opinions of others or how much we esteem their opinions of us over God’s opinions of us. This book helped me get to place where I could truly say “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

It is such a difficult concept and book to summarize, but you can find a great summary of it right here.  Here is a little excerpt from it:  

I had began reading Welch's book with the presumption that this book was going to be typical of "Christian" counseling books, writing in the margin at the end of chapter one that this book was all about "me" or "us" and not about God. By the time I'd read halfway through chapter three that notion was thoroughly dispelled. … In chapter four Welsh dives into another aspect of the sinful fear of others rather than God. ... Welch uses Abraham and Moses as illustration of men who at times feared other men but only were they truly blessed when the Almighty was firmly the subject and object of both their fear and admiration.

This was such an amazing, meaty bible study.  I came out of it so changed and so unafraid and so FREE.  It was awesome.

Best marriage bible study EVER.  And believe me I have done more than my share.  Nick and I were a little addicted to marriage groups for a while Smile.

Do yourself a favor, skip the rest, jump straight to this one.  This one makes it so easy to understand the root of all of your conflicts as a married couple (***Spoiler alert – the root has to do with LOVE and RESPECT!***), and also gives you some great concrete tips on how to navigate conflict in your marriage.

Also, its fun!  Dr. Eggerich is so funny.  He will keep you laughing throughout the whole thing. 

Even if you have a good marriage, which I think Nick and I had before; taking this will eliminate most of your fights!  On the flip side, you can also use what you learn to wound your partner even more deeply, that is how powerful it is.  But we don’t use it that way, and  I am so thankful for this bible study; it made us so much stronger!

So I won’t go too deep into this one, but this is a book that Nick and I read together, and this book helped us to grow our faith to conceive Isla. 

If you have read the book and know how our birth went, then you know that there were some things that I had difficulty “believing” in a biblical sense because I felt like some of them were extrapolating the word of God a little too much.

But there were some things that I had no difficulty believing because it is in the word of God, plain as the nose on my face.  Through this book, Nick and I made the leap to believe the word of God no matter how difficult it might be for us to believe or understand.  We chose to believe that God could be trusted in His Word, that He could be trusted when He promised that “there would be none barren among His people” or that He would “make the barren woman to keep house, and be a joyful mother of children”.

And one week later, we found out that we were pregnant after 2 years of passively trying, another 2 years of aggressively trying, dozens of pregnancy tests, fertility tests (some of them so painful), 2 failed fertility cycles, tears, bruised knees… oh my, I hate to think back on that time!

But after all of that, I now fully believe that God means what he says “My words are TRUSTWORTHY and TRUE!”  He really means it.  He is SO faithful. And best of all, I can give all of the glory for Isla to HIM Smile.

Summary

So there you have it!  These were the four best bible studies I have ever done.  I sincerely hope that at least one person finds some blessing in this list.  In any case, it has been fun to reflect back on them and thank God for using them to reveal Himself to me. He is so awesome!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Blogging Fast

So, I mentioned a few times that I was going to take a blogging fast in addition to my Facebook fast, but then I thought that I would just make it a no pressure blogging break, but now I have thought about it and…

I am officially taking a break from blog writing (and most reading) until we return from Italy and Scotland at the beginning of October.

I didn’t know if I should announce it or not, but that helps keep me honest, and I need to take a break for some very specific purposes.

One of the reasons why I love blogging is that it can be used in such wonderful, constructive ways – to build people up, to share with family and people you love, and to edify others.  But lately I have been frustrated with how passive aggressive people can be, and its been a little hard to participate in it. People use blogs to write and comment in ways that they would never do in real life… to write anymore would be a little bit passive aggressive on my part so I will leave it at that. Smile

But mainly, I just need to make more time for my Lord.  I have been playing nothing but worship music at our house the past few days, and it made me realize something… my soul has been a little thirsty and a little weary lately Smile and my love for others has needed some serious replenishing.  I need to reprioritize.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
   When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
   day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
   “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
   as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
   under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
   among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 42:1-5

And I will leave you with a few other verses from Isaiah that I have been clinging too lately…

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new.  Now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

“And I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places. So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.” Isaiah 45:3

And finally to remember what a glorious and awesome God I serve…

“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22

Blessings,
Stori

Ps.  I did just remember that I would like to do one teensy tiny post on Kelly’s Korner SUYL Favorite Bible Studies, and that will be all that I will do until October Smile. Seriohzna! (That’s seriously in Russian).

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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