Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oven fires, emotions and HGTV. :)

Okay, don't tell my neighbors or my apartment complex ladies, but yesterday I totally set my oven on fire. haha! :) I had spilled something in the bottom, and wouldn't you know it, it actually caught fire! I was on the phone in a deep discussion with the Mighty Man at the time, and all of a sudden I just said, "Um, babe, I gotta go. My oven is on fire. haha!" It was casual because it was surprising. But that was a funny moment. I just opened the oven door and let the air kill the flame (it was small). But that was definitely a first for me!

Don't let that fool you, though. I'm still a killer baker. And I'm learning about the cooking thing, too. I'll get there. :)

So, these past couple of weeks have been very enlightening for me. I'm learning so much about who God created me to be, and I had the most wonderful self discovery the other day. I'm so tired of trying to be a boy. :) I want to be a girl!! :) :) And that's okay! :)

Here's the story because that sounds funny.

Growing up, my dad didn't really know how to handle girls, so he involved me and my sister in his interests as a way of showing love. He taught us all about deer hunting and football. (I can throw a wicked spiral...just sayin.) But that really had an effect on me. I know he didn't intend it do, but I grew up believing that Jill the little girl wasn't worth approval. Jill the little girl who loved My Little Ponies and Barbies and games of Candy Land--she wasn't going to be accepted. I would have to pursue other avenues against my nature if I wanted to be approved.

Thus, I became a jock. I played sports to please my dad. I got involved in athletics in college to please my dad. (And, by this time, all men.) And I took a job in the sports field to please my dad. I'm living, as a 31-year-old woman to please my dad, who probably didn't care one way or the other, but who couldn't express that to me.

Wow. Okay...Can anyone relate here?

This is getting deep for a blog, but I want to share it because I think it's something that a lot of people struggle with. My dad was an amazing man. I respect few people more than I respect him. He was a brave man who served in Vietnam, and he came home and worked so hard every day of his life in order to provide for his family. The only trouble was that he never expressed or validated emotions. Thus, I kind of made up my own assumptions about what he wanted from me. And I also learned that emotions weren't really okay to have. They needed to be tucked away and stuffed down with distracting sources.

Now, I KNOW I'm not alone there. Especially with the emotional part. That's why addictions are so rampant! We don't want to feel the things we're experienceing--the pain, the anger, the fear--so we distract ourselves with a thousand different things to take our minds off what we're really experiencing. But that's SO not healthy.

Emotions are so natural. We all have them! And we need to learn how to experience them and allow them to be sources of wisdom. It's okay to feel angry. What does it tell you about the situation you're in? It's okay to be afraid. What does it tell you about the situation you're in? Is your fear even necessary, or is it irrational? Only by feeling it can you examine what's going on and how to handle it.

Interesting, huh?

Anyway, I think I blogged about something totally different than I'd intended to. But let's just go with it. Let's finish up by talking about distractions. I've blogged about keeping busy before and getting absorbed and consumed by to-do lists. I think for me that's been one way that I try to deal with difficult emotions. I do things. What about you? Are there emotions that you don't allow yourself to experience and try to stuff away? Here's my challenge to all of us. Let's start pausing when we feel an emotion going on inside of us and ask ourselves what's going on. Why do we feel that way. Then, let's take it to the Lord! He's the One who gave us emotions to begin with, and He is the One who will administer peace and truth to us in the midst of them. Especially if we are willing to open His Word. We'll find that He's in control, working for our good and madly in love with us. Thank You, Jesus!

So, if you'll agree to do that, I'll agree to start being more girlie. (Is that girly or girlie?) I'll embrace that inner Paula-Deen-lovin-coffee-drinkin-Better-Homes-and-Gardens-reading-fru-fru lady that I wanna be without guilt or remorse! I will feel unashamed when I get bored of ESPN and turn it to HGTV. (No, I probably won't abandon SportsCenter altogether, but I won't feel bad for changing the channel if I want to.)

Be free, friends! Be you! Be who God created you to be! :) He didn't mess up. He loves you and made you for a purpose! :) Live it up!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Ode to Family

I am not a big fan of fruit. I admit it. When I eat it, I like it, but it's not something I'll just voluntarily choose. BUT, this morning, I was being bold and trying to incorporate fruit into my day by making a smoothie. Man, I messed it all up. haha! Smoothies are an art, aren't they? I didn't use enough yogurt and put in too much milk, so it was basically way to liquidy. Oops. Noted. I guess that will be a craft I'll have to work on a little bit. It's not nearly as good as my vanilla cream pie. haha! :) I wonder what that would taste like blended in a Magic Bullet. :)

So, this past weekend, the Mighty Man and I went down to Oklahoma to visit his sister and brother-in-law and to meet their brand new baby boy. YAY!! :) It was such a wonderful trip. It was quick, but it was such a blast. Their household is so full of love and energy. It's fantastic! They now have five kids ranging in ages from newborn to 10, and they are each so wonderful in their own ways.

The oldest is one of the smartest and respectful young men I've ever met. I felt so honored when he came straight out to the car and gave me a hug first-thing when we arrived.

The next is a marvelous young princess who is independent, yet, fully alive in relationship--and is definitely a natural mama in the making. One of my highlights of the trip was just coloring with her. I LOVE her. :)

The next is my little stud-muffin of a 5-year-old. He will tease and taunt, but at the end of the day, is one of the most tender little men I've had the blessing to love.

Ah, then there's the 2-year-old, who is as patient and curious as can be. And so full of love. He's so affectionate and expressive and he loves to wear mismatched cowboy boots and a cowboy hat around while wearing nothing but a t-shirt and diaper. haha! I did get a picture. It was classic. Oh! And he also provided us with some wonderful entertainment on Monday morning by treating us to an exploding diaper disaster. haha! Talk about a thrillingly awful odor! haha! Welcome to parenthood! Can't wait for that someday in my life. haha!

And finally, there is the newborn little boy. Born on Friday afternoon and just as tiny and precious as can be. I loved just holding him and smelling his head. :) He's got the softest hair and is just the most precious gift from God. Thank You, Lord, for a safe arrival!

What was even more amazing was watching MM's sister handle the whole thing. By kid #5, you can tell that she's got this thing down. She's the most patient and peaceful mom I've ever seen in action. I don't think I have a code name for her on this blog, yet, so I'm going to call her Lady Green. :) Well, I just gotta say that watching her in action was just amazing. I'm so used to seeing the challenges that new moms go through (because it is HARD), so to see someone who handled it like any other life situation with complete peace and grace was just amazing. Lady Green, I can only hope to be half as peaceful when I have kids someday. You are a model of the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding. Way to go, lady!

How fun. I like that code name for her. And I think I'll dub MM's younger sister as Queen Biz. :) Lady Green and Queen Biz. My two new sisters in Christ. I just love them both. It's been such a blessing getting to know them as MM and I have grown together. Queen Biz had her first child not too long ago, and this little gem of a girl is just about the cutest thing you could EVER see. Maybe I've blogged about it before, but she's a miracle baby, and you can tell that her parents understand the gift they've been given with her. They treasure her in a very real way and really model how all parents should view their children: as GOOD GIFTS from God. So proud of King and Queen Biz and how they are already bringing up a strong woman of the Lord who KNOWS she is loved.

Anyway, I didn't have any major lessons to share this morning other than by saying how awesome it is to be coming into such a wonderful family. I'm so thankful for MM's family and their love and acceptance of me. And a big shout-out to his mom and grandma who displayed such love and grace in helping out Lord and Lady Green while we were there, too. Kudos on the Sunday night dinner, ladies! And great salsa Lord Green! :)

And, MM, thank YOU, my love, for bringing me into your life. You bless me so much every day, and I look forward to many more road trips with you in the future. May we be blessed with miles and miles of Garth Brooks and Dave Ramsey, holding hands all the way. :)

Love to you all today! Don't forget that Jesus loves you!
- Jill

P.S. To my wonderful family: Know that this only makes me value YOU more. Spending time with the new family enhanced my love for my Momsy, PPB, "Famous" and the others who are near to me already. You guys are truly the most wonderful blessings to me. :) I love you dearly!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Power to Choose

haha! I just love it when I surprise myself in the mornings with specialty coffee. Last night, I ran out of regular coffee as I was filling the tank for the morning brew, so I supplemented by adding a little of my favorite pre-ground flavored coffee: Starbucks Cinnamon. Yummmmmmmmmmmm! Anyway, when I got up this morning and poured my first cup, I was so pleasantly surprised to taste the sweet cinnamon in my cup instead of just the daily blend. It was awesome! :) What a great way to start the morning. Especially on long-run Fridays! :) Way to go, Thursday-night Jill. Good call. haha! :)

So, yes, this morning I had a wonderful time out on the road. It was a little breezy, which made it appropriately challenging, but it was a great run all around. And it was good timing for a long run thought-wise, as I've had a lot on my mind and plate lately that I've needed to process with the Lord. But that's for my heart to know. Not the entire internet. :)

But there is one thing that I had to share on the blog this morning. One lesson the Lord is really teaching me is how to set and keep priorities, especially when it comes to how I spend my time.

I had coffee with a reeeeeeeally good friend, yesterday, and she was talking about how busyness distracts her from intimacy with the Lord. And I totally identified. If we want to develop intimacy with the Lord, we have to choose to cultivate it.

There is ALWAYS going to be something to do. There are always chores to do, errands to run, appointments to keep, entertaining events to attend. That's just the way of life. We will never have a reason to be bored in today's world. (Ladies, can I get an amen to the phrase that a woman's work is never done?)

Since that is the truth--and it is--we have to CHOOSE to spend time with the Lord. Let me say it again: WE HAVE TO CHOOSE IT. The things that vie for our attention and beg us to pay attention to them immediately will always scream at us. We have to choose to say no to them. And we can!! Do you realize that? You (and I) have a choice in the matter! You have a choice as to how you will spend your time.

Yes, there may be groceries to buy. There may be a car to fix. There may be a coffee date that needs to be kept. There may be trash to be taken out. There may be a project that has to be done. But do any of those come before Christ? NO! The world screams at us to obey it while the Lord waits for us to choose Him.

We have to! We can say no to the things of the world in order to spend time with Him. It may seem like we don't have a choice, but we do. And it's our responsibility to take it. No one else will make it for us. If we're waiting for life to slow down, we'll be waiting forever. And meanwhile, our relationship with God will grow stale and our souls will dry out. We will become barren wastelands spiritually and feel completely empty and burned out.

BUT...If we choose to ignore the world--to put it on the second tier of priorities--we will find that our souls are filled. I believe that those tasks on the to-do list will probably be a little more enjoyable, too, because we'll have been reminded that we are loved and have a purpose. God, our Father, is with us in them all. If we don't spend time with Him, we'll tend to forget that and lose sight of the meaning of the tasks. (Yes, even laundry can bring Him glory, but we won't realize it if we don't spend time with Him beforehand. See what I'm saying?)

Today, I totally want to encourage you to CHOOSE to say NO to the world. Do it regularly. You have to! No one else will do it for you. People won't stop asking for your time. Tasks won't stop demanding that you conquer them. It's only going to happen if you make the choice to do it. You have that choice. You do! It may not seem like it, but you do. Make the wise choice!

You'd be proud of me. I actually just realized that I hadn't been doing that myself, so I carved out some Jesus time tomorrow and postponed my car appointment until next week. Thank You, Lord, for the power to choose. Help us all to choose You! :)

Joshua 24:15 - "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Love you all! Big hugs!!
- Jill

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Love Tank

Yee haw!!! I'm so excited! I just checked out the results of yesterday's half marathon, and I have to share this. I stinkin' placed 2nd in my age group! It wasn't a PR. I was three seconds shy of that, which I'd set back in June. (I think it was the presence of my Mighty Man at that one that spurred me on.) :) But it was still a great race! Clocked in at 1:35:20. Not too bad! Thanks so much to the awesome Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon organizers for putting on such a great event. I love this race! :)

And a HUGE HUGE high five to my girl, AMac who set a new PR in the full marathon. 3:46:46, baby! Way to go, lady!! :) She's a stud. My little marathon mama. :) Hugs, friend! :) Love you!!

So, after the big race yesterday, I was blessed with a day of rest this morning, which was such a blessing. With the time, I was able to spend an extended amount of time in the Presence of the Lord this morning. And, oh, how I needed that. He really, really blessed me.

Last Sunday, the Mighty Man started a new initiative at church called "The Bridge," in which the congregation would come together an hour before service, divide into small groups and begin studying different subjects. I'm SO blessed because our group is going through the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. This is going to be awesome! :) I'm so excited to learn how to give and receive love based on how God created both me and the Mighty Man, and to apply it to family and friends, too! And huge thanks for Mr. and Mrs. P for leading. You guys are great!

One of the things that we talked about in the first session was how full our love tanks were. Man, that is a great question to ask the people who are closest to you. "How full is your love tank and what can I do to help fill it?" That really makes you think! I've asked MM that, and I've also asked my family. It's really interesting to hear the answers they give based on how they give/receive love. Like last night, I asked my PPB, and he said, "Just give me lots of hugs." :) No problem! I can do that. :) Now, if I asked MM that, it might be to offer verbal affirmation or just to sit with him for a while based on how he gives and receives love. It's totally awesome! And it's such a testament to Psalm 139 and how God created each of us uniquely and specifically. It really makes me appreciate the specific and wonderful design of those in my life.

The MM and I, as part of our homework for the class, took a survey from the book to discover our individual love languages. While my man is actually tri-lingual (way to go, babe!), I had a clear frontrunner: quality time. That's apparantly the biggest way that I receive and give love. Totally not surprising to me. But what WAS surprising was how little I actually employ this love language when it comes to the primary relationship in my life: the one with God.

This morning, as I was able to spend an extended time in His presence, the first thing that came to my mind was how incredible it was just to be with Him. No agenda. No rush. Just be with Him. Just sit with Him. Just let Him pour into me. Just let the conversation go where it would. I rarely do this. Oh, but how I need it.

It became so clear to me just how "purpose-driven" my times with Him had become in my daily routine. I don't know about you, but my "quiet times" are often just about checking off the daily devotion reading and making sure I've skimmed some sort of Scripture. I make sure I address the necessary prayer requests so that I'm covered for the day and my loved ones are, as well. Don't want to leave anything unprotected! And then I'm off to tackle the day on my own. The relationship aspect of just being with God goes undone. Wow.

How full is my love tank? Pretty empty. Not based on the actions of others in my life. MM is awesome at filling me up and has the most amazing heart to seek how he can do that effectively. My family is amazing at filling my love tank. But, to some degree, it comes down to me allowing them to fill it. If my MM wants to spend time with me, I actually have to let him. If my family wants to hug me, I have to let them. If my God wants to love me, I have to open myself up to Him. Sure, He can crack through, but He wants me to want Him. He wants me to choose to engage with Him. And I just don't do that very often in a real way.

But wow. When I just came to Him without an agenda this morning, it was the most love-tank-filling, overwhelming, consuming love-fest that I'd had in a long time. Sure, I tried to start it with my normal, "What do You want me to do in my quiet time today, Lord?" kind of way. But He was so quick to say, "Just be with Me." For someone who is so agenda/task oriented, that was hard at first. But it was amazing.

I won't go over the details of what we shared. That's private. ;) But I will say that He filled my love tank. Psalm 139 was part of it, as was just His voice. And it was the most enlightening way to realize just how much I need this kind of quality time with my Father. Thank You, Lord, for showing me. Thank You for wanting to engage with me on this level. Thank You for being my Lord, my Friend, my Father.

So, I'll ask you today. . . How's your love tank? If it's a little empty, I totally encourage you to strategically carve out just TIME with God. Time just to sit with Him and let Him pour His love into you. Oh my goodness do you/me/we all need it. Only through these times can we really receive just how much He loves us JUST AS WE ARE. We don't have to do anything, be anything, fix anything. We can just know and believe that our Father loves us unconditionally and considers us His beloved children.

Rest in that truth today and let Him speak it to you. He LOVES you. . . just as you are.

Hugs, friends!
- Jill

Monday, October 3, 2011

Get real.

Okay, so yesterday, because I couldn't sit still long enough to just watch the Chiefs game, I decided to busy myself in the kitchen doing one of my favorite activities: baking! It was a perfect fall day for it, so I just grabbed the big Betty Crocker cookbook, looked up a recipe based on ingredients I had on hand, and started cookin'! What came out was the most beautiful, homemade vanilla cream pie I'd ever seen. :) And all from scratch! Crust, filling and meringue. All homemade! :) :) SOOO awesome!

I wanted to challenge myself a little, and I didn't want to take any shortcuts or use any premade junk. I wanted something REAL--something like grandma used to make. So, that's what came out. haha! Funny thing was that I didn't realize it would have to cool for, like, ever, so I can't try it until tonight. I'll have to let you know later if it tastes good. But I did cut into it this morning to check and see what it looked like inside, and it looks AMAZING! :)

Real. . . This word has been playing on my heartstrings since Saturday. I took a whirlwind trip back to my hometown to participate in our library's 90th anniversary party (thank you, ladies, for the wonderful event!!) and sign some books, and, in the process, I had a LOT of think time in the car.

It was funny. For most of the six hours, I tried to find things that would occupy my mind or keep me entertained. Sports talk radio, football games, NPR, classical music, sermons, country music, and, of course, worship CDs. All good things. But none of them kept me permanently entertained. I'd get bored of them eventually and have to find something else to keep my attention.

Eventually, I began to get frustrated. Why wouldn't anything keep my mind engaged? Why wasn't I able to find something that would just keep me completely satisfied the whole time? Why did I have to constantly keep switching around in order to keep things fresh or find new fulfillment?

This is where the Lord spoke. Eventually, I just shut everything off. Radio off. CDs off. Silence. Just me and the Lord. "God, what do You want me to do? What do You want me to listen to? What on earth will make this ride more enjoyable?"



"Just me."

Um, wow. Okay.

It was like so many lights went on. Why couldn't I keep satisfied? Because it was all just temporary entertainment. It wasn't Christ. It wasn't God. It was just earthly stuff that wasn't meant to provide lasting fulfillment. I would wear out on each different thing because it couldn't provide the longterm satisfaction I was looking for. Only God can do that. Only in my relationship with Him am I able to be completely filled and at peace. That's it! It's the only thing that has lasting value.

After that, I started looking at my life and seeing how this played into so many other areas. I do this all the time. I look to other things to find fulfillment and then get disappointed or frustrated when they don't live up to expectations. I'll keep seeking after them and expecting them to fulfill me, only to find that I have to keep seeking after more of it if I want to keep being satisfied. When I look to these outside sources, I always need more of them. They never are enough. They're not real.

Let's put it into an example. I can run and run and run and run and run (and I have done this), but I will never be fulfilled by running. There will always be a greater distance, a faster time, another race. And I'll always want more.

Same thing with money. I can earn and earn and earn and earn and earn (and I have NOT done this), but there will always be a bigger house, better car, more luxurious vacation. It will never be enough.

These things aren't real. They are substitutes for the only REAL thing we can have: a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. That is the absolute ONLY thing that can satisfy our souls.

My quiet times with the Lord are when I experience this the most. It's during those moments that I realize, "Oh, hey. This is real. This is where I am fulfilled. This is authentic. Nothing else today has been able to satisfy me. Jesus, You can."

It's a great day when we realize that whatever we are seeking here on earth won't ever meet our needs. When we realize that, we will truly understand just how precious our relationship with the Lord truly is. Intimacy with Him is the only thing that can touch the places in our hearts that are crying out for lasting love and peace. Other things may work for brief amounts of time, but they will never keep us satisfied forever. But what they can't do, Jesus can. And He will.

Somehow I was going to tie in an analogy using the realness of Jesus by using the realness of my pie, but it just doesn't seem appropriate anymore. I was all about using REAL ingredients instead of shortcut premade stuff, but even my homemade vanilla cream pie seems pretty insignificant after examining the eternal fulfillment of Christ. haha! :) He's way better than the pie! No matter how good it is, it won't fill me up forever! :) I'll still have to eat again. And I'll probably still want another piece after the first is gone.

But here's the thing: Once we understand that Christ is what we really want, we can be free to enjoy everything temporary as the blessings that they are! When we release them from the expectations of fulfilling us, they become sources of joy that He gives us as blessings! I can enjoy a piece of pie knowing that it won't keep me satisfied forever. It wasn't meant to. But I can enjoy the serving and thank Him for the experience.

Anyone else hungry? haha! Hope you have a great Monday, friends, knowing that the Lord of all creation loves you and wants to develop an eternally fulfilling relationship with you. I hope you let Him!

Big hugs!
- Jill