Monday, September 28, 2009


So with the hard economic times we have had lately, people are thinking at stewardship in a different way. Stewardship is not just something we ought to do, but we have to. Our whole society is rethinking its relationship to money, credit, saving, etc. That has been a hard reality for many families. Foreclosures, bankruptcies and the like are now common household terms. These were always things that happened to "other people" or to "those people", you know the ones who made unwise spending choices and paid for their consequences, no one you knew.

That has changed. Luckily, my family has not had the misfortune of bankruptcy or foreclosure. For that we are truly blessed. However, we have been hit pretty hard by the economy. My husband used to be able to work overtime, to get extra jobs, and make up the deficit of me staying home. It made more sense for him to work the extra work than me to have a part time job, as he made so much more doing his off-duty jobs. Those jobs were coming steadily for awhile a few years ago. They have all but stopped. We depended on those jobs, as we should have known not to do, but now we have had to learn how to live without them, and with the choices we made while we had them.

So this has made me look at stewardship and my roll as a housewife in a whole new way. Stewardship is more than investing monetarily the money you have, but making that money work for you. Using what you have to the best of your ability so that in the end you have made the wisest choices with that money you could. We have cut our extras back considerably. Do we really need the premium cable channels? Is a landscaper absolutely necessary? What about cell phone plans, could we use a house phone more, and cell phones less?? We have cut back the amount we spend on groceries, we stopped buying so many unnecessary food items- soda, chips, and candy. We don't eat out nearly as often, and we buy simple whole food items and make them stretch. This will not only help our bottom line but our waistline as well.

All this started making me think of the Proverbs 31 woman. In Proverbs 31:10-31 (I would paste it on here but it is rather long) it describes a wife of good character, one who works for her family and is reputable and dependable. She works hard and is busy trying to make the most of the things that she has at her disposal. Her husband and children relish in her and sing her praises. She is kind and loving and diligent. She is not out spending money or gossiping at the corner about her neighbors, she is too busy taking care of the responsibilities in her home. My goal has become to be more like the woman in this passage than the other types of women mentioned in proverbs- the ones who tear down their own homes with their nagging and berating and gossip.

I have started to think of ways we could make the most of the space, the money and other resources that we have. I took up crocheting. I have made the children birthday and Christmas gifts. I started canning so that we would not have to buy as much produce in the fall and winter. I have started growing some of my own food so that I can have fresh and free food. We bought some chickens and a coop so that we can have fresh eggs and at some point chicken (my husband and his friends are going to throw a chicken slaughtering event in the backyard. I told him he better use a tarp!!) I am cloth diapering to save the money we spend on diapers, which with two in diapers is a lot! And my newest endeavor has been foraging. There are plenty of food available around us if we look for it, and today I found prickly pears on the side of the fruit!

We were not living like kings before, and neither are we living like paupers now. We have begun to be more conscious of our spending and that is a good thing. Before it was easy to do what we pleased and make ends meet without feeling the hit. Now we have to work harder at it. Granted it is a challenge and at times we wonder if the money will come, but it does and then some. It has been such a time of blessing, this might sound as a strange way to look at a financial hardship, but it is. We are able to see God work in the little things, helping us to trust Him in the bigger things. This has grown our faith and our sense of who God is. We are learning to be more responsible and to be accountable for our actions. It is a beautiful time!! Praise God.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Forgive Myself ???

I love Tuesdays. It is a day off for my husband, first of all, and secondly it is my women's bible study day. I am blessed that I get to fellowship with other women and hear a truth lesson, that for some reason resonates with me deeper than those of Sundays.

The last couple of weeks have been about forgiveness and mercy. I forgiveness, as anyone who has been a christian for any length of time knows, is a key word in the christian church. Christ died so that we may have forgiveness. We must forgive one another. So on and so forth.

One thing that we discussed today is an aspect of forgiveness that we, especially women I think, don't think about. Forgiving ourselves. That is a big pill to swallow, forgiving ourselves. When we first started talking about this today I thought, oh well, I forgive myself. I don't hold grudges with myself, I need to focus on my reaction to others. Then as we dug deeper, I realized that no, I do not forgive myself enough. Sometimes I hold grudges against myself about personality things that are simply the way that God created me to be.

I never before had realized that my overcritical spirit of myself, of my big, loud personality, of my thicker thighs, of my boldness, of my curly hair was criticizing God and a sin. I never realized before that my beating myself up for not having a perfectly mopped floor or fingerprints on the walls or making only a mediocre meal is a sin. I had been holding myself to a standard that was impossible to uphold and judging everyone else by the same standard in order to make myself feel better for my inability to measure up. I was making myself God. I was taking over His position. I was in sin.

Something else that was brought up is that God is God and I am not. Ok, so it sounds really simple. It sounds elementary, right?? But think about it. How many times do we sit around thinking how we can control our lives, criticizing ourselves and just plain old making ourselves feel inferior. I know I do. I even do it about how good of a Christian I am. I get mad that I cursed again, or that I thought a crazy thought about someone, or even how much more I need to be doing for God's kingdom. If I was the perfection of Christianity that I think I should be, then I would already be in Heaven. I walk around trying to make everything "appear" perfect when in reality it is about to fall apart. I try and do Christianity on my own and forget that God is the center of it all. I step out all alone time and time again and forget the one who created me and keeps me righteous. Then I am surprised that I trip despite my own feet, and hold myself accountable.

So then it comes to forgiveness. It is two fold. We number one need to ask God's forgiveness and recognize that we are not as powerful as we would like to believe. But the second part is much much harder. We let go. We forgive ourselves for not being perfected yet, and give God the control. We trust Him to do what needs to be done. It is not in our power to be perfect, so why do we get mad when we miss the mark? We have to forgive ourselves, or we are walking in our own power again. We need to recognize that it is God who does all things, deserves all praise and apart from Him we can do nothing. Not just we can do only a couple things, but nothing!! Not one thing can be done in our own power. It is only God who can walk this walk with us. It is only God who can be our map and guide. If we hold ourselves to a higher standard than where God has us at the moment, we miss the blessing and lesson we are supposed to learn right now. And if God is teaching us something, you can guarantee it is an important lesson!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mercy Me

This last weekend I had the pleasure of going to a baseball game that had a Mercy Me concert afterwards. We were down on the field in Chase Field, which is the home for the Arizona Diamondbacks. This was an amazing experience for several reasons. First of all I was on the field in Chase field, just feet away from the pitcher's mound. That in and of itself was awesome. Second I was blessed to spend some time with some amazing friends and have fellowship with great people. Thirdly, I was able to hear the sound of a stadium full of people worship the Lord and watch hundreds of christians with hands raised praising their creator. That was the best reason of all!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Real Gift is Giving

The other day my husband and I were blessed with a gift of some extra cash. This wasn't anything we had earned or worked for, just a gift. It was nice because we still had a week until my husband was paid and we needed to buy diapers and pet food. But we would have been able to get by without it. It was a blessing.

As we were driving home, we decided we needed to give God back some of the blessings that He had given us. We decided that the best way to do this was to help someone who truly needed it. There is an older man who sits in the parking lot of the grocery store complex near our house. He is there most days and was there that day as well. My husband decided that our church had more than enough today, that man needed this money and that would be our tithe of the blessing we had received.

We drove our car and handed the man a bill. It was not an extremely large amount, but not the smallest denomination of money either. It was just a small amount really. But to this man, it was everything. When we handed him the bill, he must have expected a $1 or maybe a $5. He thanked us without looking at it, then as he glanced down at the unexpected amount, tears welled in his sun weathered face. The tear whetted the dirt that was stuck on his skin.

"Are you sure??" he asked, disbelief on his face. He held the bill like it was the most precious thing he had ever seen. He stared at it for a moment and then glanced up at our car. I felt petty and touched. I had so much compared to this man, this amount of money I had taken for granted time and time again. As we reassured him that we wanted him to have it and it was a gift to him, I wanted to give him more, I wanted to love him. He reached out and shook my hand, but I wanted to hug him and take the pain away, to reassure him that God loved him and that there was hope. I didn't hug him, had I been out of my car I probably would have, but I shook that man's hand with as much love as I could put into a hand shake. He doesn't even know it but he changed MY life!!!

The gratefulness he showed me gave me so much love and hope! I really realized at that point how much God loves him. I had always known this in my head, but this time God really revealed it to me. The difference was seeing it- but really seeing how much God loves him was miraculous. It made me different. It made me want to be this man's friend. Never before would I have thought of being friends with a fifty- something panhandler, until that very moment.

I know that God was pleased with us for handing the money to the man, but how much more pleased would he be if I loved that man?? As a real friend? Not just to drive by and hand him a sandwich or a $20, but a friend that cared. To walk by and talk with him. Maybe bring him water or blankets, what HE NEEDS, not what I want to give but his actual needs like a friend does.

That afternoon, though the man got a gift of a need being met, I got a gift. I saw God's plan a little bit. I understood a bit more of what Jesus' heart is. That we would find him in the least of these.
Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

I wasn't helping that man, I was helping Jesus!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Lesson in Grace

Raising children is not always easy. Teaching them can be relentless and monotonous, and tiring. There are few times that I truly believe the things that I tell them go deeper than surface level, down to the heart. Then the teachable moments happen and I realize that, maybe, just maybe I will have gotten somewhere.

I opened my daughter's backpack from school, which can be a bit scary! I was bombarded with notes from her teacher. Notes that she had hidden, notes that she had kept from me purposefully. I read each note and contemplated how to continue. The notes displayed a repeated theme- disrespect for fellow students. Now this has been something that has repeated itself over and over in her young life. I have discussed with her the importance of "loving her neighbor as herself" as we are told to do in Matthew 22:39. I discussed how much God loved the little child that she was taunting and being rude to, how He loved that child the same way He loved her. I told her how important it was to be loving to God's creations.

Then something happened that truly broke my heart. There she sat, squatted actually, on the floor with her head down. Her hair had fallen and she mumbled something inaudible to me. I had her stand up and tell me again what she had said. With tears in her eyes she repeated "God doesn't love me because I do bad things." She said this so matter-of-factly it broke my heart.

This child has been in church her whole life. She has heard of how God forgives us and how because Jesus died we can go to heaven even though we do bad things. She knows these things in her head. Apparently it had not quite reached her heart, and she had not learned about a very special word. One that God has lovingly bestowed on us.

That word, as I told her, is Grace!!! Oh the Grace of the Lord!! What a beautiful thing.

2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

His grace IS sufficient. It IS made perfect in our weakness. It is through the power of Christ, through the power of a loving God and creator that we can live and love and through our weakness as humans that we are perfected in Christ.

I sat there on this Thursday morning talking to my daughter about grace, the beauty that God has given us through his grace. I told her that our process of being perfected in God is an ongoing one. That even I, her mom, still made mistakes and that God does not love me any less for it. The smile returned to her face as we humbled ourselves before God and prayed for his forgiveness and Grace.

How beautiful that we can come boldly before the throne of Grace and ask for God's forgiveness and help. It is the one lesson that I truly needed today, and it was given to me by the sweetest 7 year old little girl!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Spiritual Spanking

Whenever I have a period of spiritual highs, inevitably, every time there is a spiritual low immediately afterwards. You would think by now I would know to protect myself from these beat downs with prayer. This last time was no different.

I knew I was hitting a wall of attack. I knew that the armies of darkness would be hitting me hard, after all, I had not only spent a weekend enveloped in a God-bubble, but I also had a heard God's voice calling to me and had some growth. I knew ahead of time that this would be a hard hitting attack. Did I pray and cover myself with the strength of Christ, like I know I need to do in order to counteract the attacks of Satan's army? Nope. I called on my girlfriend....not God.

Makes total sense, right? I mean she is the one who would give me strength to overcome Satan's attack, she is the one who knows the inner-workings of my soul, right!?? Oh, yeah, nope again. So the whole time I am having this gabfest with her going over how wonderful my weekend had been, how much growth I had seen, and how I had heard God calling me, Satan's demons were whispering into the conversation. They joined in the gabfest too. I guess they enjoy some girl talk also.

The whole time I talked about the wonderful events that had passed and all the things that were going on and how much I had grown, Satan helped me grow too!!! It was awfully generous of him, he grew my pride!! And grew, and grew and grew...... Until my little pride (OK, it has never really been THAT little!) grew to the size of, oh about the Grand Canyon. I decided that I was amazing, awesome, I probably put myself right up next to God. And then, when I came home and realized how my family fell so far beneath my righteousness (cause at this point I was almost the holiest person on earth) I decided I would take a seat right there in the throne of God. Forget coming boldly before the throne, I came boldly and sat right down into it. I took a seat and played the role of God, in my own mind I was just helping God out, since I was so righteous.

Who should be the one to be blessed by my righteous rant? My wonderful disillusioned husband. I thought I would help him grow, since I myself had just had a tremendous growth, I thought I would bring him to where I was. I decided that I knew his heart. I knew what he thought, what he felt, how his relationship with God really was and what he lacked in. I then proceeded to tell him all of this. Needless to say, that didn't go over so well. As I berated his lack of spiritual maturity, my pride swelled in relation to the amount my exhaustion swelled (at this point it was well past midnight and we had both been up with the baby at 5 am) I pretty much had beaten him down to a mess and stood victorious over top of him. You would think that I would feel amazing having won this tremendous argument. He conceded that he needed to read the bible more and pray more and pray more why did I feel like I had been hit by a Mack truck?

I think it is funny when we are at a low depth of sin and confusion, God has a way of working with our mess and creating a beautiful new creation. That is definitely true of the one I had just made. I had made a big mud pie mess of my life, my marriage, my heart. I was depressed and feeling low and beaten. The morning after the argument I had bible study at church, and wouldn't you know it, the message was on sin and spiritual attacks and forgiveness. So one thing about our bible study is that it is a two hour study in two parts. The first part is like a big service all together the second is smaller groups of discipleship.

The first hour was discussing Matthew 4 when Jesus is approached by Satan after the 40 days of fasting. The facilitator mentioned how it was strategic of Satan because this was directly after the fast which would be a spiritual high and that is typically when Satan attacks- exactly what I was going through. Then she said how Jesus stood firm and resisted the attacks and Satan fled, how we need to resist. She also mentioned how in Jude the archangel Michael tells Satan that the Lord rebukes him. She discussed how we are small in comparison to the attacks of Satan and his army and we need to acknowledge our weakness and look to Jesus the creator of Satan to tell him to just shut up and go away. That is something I had not done. I thought I would just face Satan head to head, again my pride! I realized at that point that I needed the guidance from my own creator if I was going to get through this.

The second hour was about forgiveness and the "little foxes" that come in and disrupt our marriage. I realized that I had an issue with pride and that would be my little fox that I allow to get in the way. I set myself up for failure by lifting myself up. She went on to say how when we don't forgive or we judge we are sitting at the throne of God. She reminded us that we do not have that right. I was oh so convicted. That is precisely how I had acted. I had sat right down in the thrown of God and declared myself all knowing! I had decided that I had the right to judge my husband and to tell him how he needed to act.

What a loving Father. I have to say, I am so thankful for God's discipline. The whole time my pride was swelling, I could feel I was not right. I knew that something was off, but I refused to address it appropriately. Had I gone directly to God and asked for his strength, guidance, and protection from the attack I would have been able to fend off this nasty bump in my marriage. I wouldn't have hurt my husbands feelings with reckless abandon in the name of righteousness. I wouldn't have had to feel like road kill, and I would have maintained a rightness with God(the most important part). But I can come boldly before the throne of grace. So I slinked out of the throne- it had been a bit big for me anyway- and gave it back to it's rightful owner and lowered myself humbly. I apologized to those who I had offended, God and my husband, and have learned, hopefully, to be more guarded. I thank God for his loving discipline, for correcting me. I am thankful that I am so dear to him that he would lay on my heart so heavy to correct my actions and continue to work in perfecting my character. It is an act of love, one that only my Heavenly Father could dole out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Calling

So the saying is that God's voice is that still small voice whispering into your ear, right? We have all heard that said. For the most part I agree with that statement. I have had times when I had to be absolutely still and I did hear God's voice whispering something to me. Then, I immediately obey and do as instructed and am blessed beyond imagination.

For the most part, however, when the still small voice is making its debut I either do not hear it or cannot decipher what it is saying. This is mostly true when I am getting a calling from God. The irony is that if it is rebellion in my heart, or sin, I hear the voice loud and clear and I know what it is God is saying. That is when I have to decide if I will choose obedience or if I will choose rebellion. When you look on the outside, the answer is obvious, OK so maybe for you it is in your life too, but I am a huge sinner! I sometimes struggle- OK usually struggle with making the right choices, this is especially true if it is not something that I want to change and it usually is.

But I am not talking about sin right now. I am talking about a calling. I am talking about the way God talks to me when He is calling me to do something. This could just be that I alone am thick headed and partly deaf to God. It might just be that I alone second guess if the voice I hear is God's or my own. I don't think that this is 100% true, though. I have a feeling that others out there have the same struggle when God calls them. I think that it is so easy to decide that we don't know what God wants and to ignore Him if we do know what he wants. Even Abraham and Sarah were not sure exactly what God was doing. They thought they would take it into their own hands to fulfil God's promise when Sarah gave Abraham her servant to have children with. They struggled to know what God's plan was going to look like. I am not wholly sure that they were not trusting that God would fulfill his intended promise. I think a part of them thought they were doing what God wanted by having a son. There was definitely a part of them that didn't trust God to do things, but I think they were still figuring out what the plan would look like.

When God calls me to do something, it starts out small and quiet. It is almost as if he is saying to me, "Danica, get ready. Soon something is going to happen." When this happens it is more of a whisper in my ear. Often I confuse the whisper with my own ideas and ambitions and ignore it. I do that a lot and I often wonder what more God would have in store for me if I would immediately cry out "Here I am" as Abraham did. But unfortunately I am more of a Samuel, mistaking the voice of God as someone else's.

The next thing that happens to me, when God is calling me, is a tap on the shoulder. I start to feel more strongly that God is moving me in a direction, and I start to look for where the tap is coming from. At this point, where I find I am apparently blind and completely in my own fog, I still don't quite see where the tap is taking me. I again, ignore it. This time, though I am more keenly aware that something could be happening at some point.

The next thing that happens is more like a strong tug. After weeks, months, even years, God is starting to be more clear to me. There starts to be a tug at my arm as if to say "Look, silly!!!! I want you to look over here!!! This is going to happen and it is going to happen soon" At this point I usually catch on that God is the one saying these things and it is not just in my own head. I am usually alert to watch for direction and guidance as well as open doors. After this point I can typically see the road that God is laying out for me to some extent.

The funny thing about a calling, is that it typically comes into focus when there is more than one opportunity presented. I , personally, think that it is God's way of making us listen really closely to Him and follow Him. It is usually the way that we didn't expect that we are supposed to follow and go towards. It is at this point that we are supposed to stand firm and wait prayerfully for God's direction. I think this was the point where Abraham and Sarah got impatient and decided that they would decide what God's plan for them would look like. They grabbed the reigns and directed their paths. That was a mistake that has effected millions of lives. If they would have waited for God's direction they would have seen God's plan.

That is the hard part. When we are called to something, especially if we are eager to serve God and see our lives used for His purpose, it is difficult not to allow our own purpose to squeeze in. That sounds ironic, nonsensical even, but true for so many. It is when we want to please God that our own selfish hearts jump in and say, "Hey, you are waiting and wanting this so much that it must be OK!! God must want you to do it your way because He isn't giving a clear direction. You should go that way and God will bless you because it is for Him." That is where we fool ourselves. That is not for Him. That is for our own selfish ambition. If it is truly for God, it has to be His perfect plan. We are merely the vessels to see it through. It is only if we sit down on the raft and allow ourselves to be carried by the river God uses to make our path that we can be doing His will. When we get off the raft and make our own path, we will be swept away and end up flailing and drowning in the water. Then God has to put us back on His raft and start again. It only makes things messier and takes the process longer. So hold on to your raft and wait on God!