Archives for October 2011

Good Choice/Bad Choice

Have you ever made a bad choice?

I feel like my friends with kids are always challenging them to make wise or good choices.  I love it when the kids understand the concept and then challenge their own parents with the same advice.  My friend Chad wrote something on his hand at work in order to remember to pay a bill when he returned home.  Jack, his three year-old son, was quick to point out that “Daddy made a bad choice!”

Getting a perm in 1992 when I was in 3rd grade was excusable.  However, getting a perm in 2002 when I was 21 was what we will call NOT a good choice.

Super "Awesome" Perm. (Also, Whitney don't hate me.)

You choose your friends, your hobbies, your attitude, your college, your major, how to dress, how to decorate, what you say, and how to spend your time.  And for obvious reasons, some choices hold a lot more weight than others.  Have you ever made a bad choice and had your parents ask you WHY you made such a choice?  Have you ever answered that question with an “I don’t know”?  That’s a big deal because our choices indicate a lot about who we are.

How you choose to fill your day is how you live your life.  Your choices matter – and the choices that you make give us a direct insight into your character.

You will have countless voices to listen to in your lifetime when it comes to making choices.  WHO you listen to makes all the difference.

Last week we covered making big decisions, but this week I want to talk about some specific choices that we all make every day.

How we respond to challenges/trials.
How we spend our time.
How we spend our talent.
And how we spend our treasure.

I believe that how we respond to these questions will tell us a lot about our hearts and our character.  I hope you’ll stop by every day and jump in on the conversation. 

“I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20, The Message

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Chasing Daylight

Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus has been on my top influential reads since the fall of 2006. I was looking for a book to read on my “exploratory” flight out to Arizona. I walked into the office of my boss and borrowed Seizing Your Divine Moment straight off his shelf. (The book has since been rereleased with the title, Chasing Daylight. Little did I know how apropos that choice would prove to be!)

Here I was, 24 years old and considering moving from Texas to Arizona and not knowing a soul in the desert. I would be far from home, friends, and everything familiar – but I couldn’t shake the feeling that God had brought this opportunity my way.

I realized my mistake in borrowing the book even before I boarded the flight. Since the copy wasn’t my own, I wasn’t free to high-light or mark up the words that were causing my heart to leap out of my chest. I have twelve pages in one of my journals just filled with quotes and thoughts captured on my three-hour flight to Phoenix. My interview wasn’t until the following morning, but already I felt more ready to GO if this was a God-breathed opportunity.

This book didn’t tell me to take the job at the church in Phoenix. This book didn’t contain a page that read, “Ginger, you should do this. Love, God.” But this book did allow me to comprehend the possibility of the moment.  Rather than focusing on my fears of what might happen, the chapters encouraged me to embrace adventure.  This was a chance to change the course of my life and risk big in order to gain more of Him and less of me.

Chasing Adventure, November 2006

I highly recommend this book for dreamers and adventurers everywhere.

“What if you knew womewhere in front of you was a moment that would change your life forever, a moment rich in potential, a moment filled with endless possibilities?  What if you knew that there was a moment coming, a divine moment, on where God would meet yu in such a way that nothing would be the same again?  What if there was a moment, a defining moment, where the choices you made determined the c ourse and momentum of your future?  How would you treat that moment?  How would you prepare for it?  How would you identify it?”Chasing Daylight

“The most important moments rarely come at a convenient time.  Sometimes you wish that God would check your calendar first.  The ironic part is that our schedules get packed with the mundane and ordinary, and we become irritated with god when He interrupts us with the miraculous and extraordinary.  The Bible is full of stories about people who were rudely interrupted by God.  We read them and long to have the kind of adventure experienced by those men and women.  Yet when God interrupts us, are we willing to respond on a moment’s notice?”Chasing Daylight

As Erwin McManus says…

Dream. Risk. Create.

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Take Notes

Fact: While I can handle addressing a room full of thousands of people I am NOT the person you want in an emergency situation.  I’ve learned this about myself in spades.  Like most things in life, hopefully I’m getting better.  The minute I become emotional my decision making abilities are shot.

Enter the rational people in my life.  (Thankfully!)

Take a gander at todays’ Thursday Tip…

List out your tasks, fears and thoughts and commit them to prayer.  Remember that God is for you during this whole process.  If He has provided you with multiple opportunities, then trust that He will walk through this season with you!

Following,
Ginger

Beneficial Wisdom

Howdy Friends!  We started answering J’s question yesterday regarding how to make decisions when all of the options seem viable and beneficial.

First off today I want to hone in on that last word: beneficial.  Reminds me of a verse in 1 Corinthians.  Check it:

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

That’s a key point in this argument.  Just because we “can” do something doesn’t always mean it’s the best option.  I can choose to go out to lunch everyday.  This wouldn’t be beneficial to our bank account or my skinny jeans.

So check your options and see if the end result of all the choices would make for a beneficial and constructive outcome.

If all of the options pass that initial test, I believe the next step is to seek some wise counsel.

“Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.” Proverbs 12:15, The Message

“Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well.” Proverbs 19:20, The Message

So how would an advisor help us with difficult choices?

  1. They see our blind spots.
  2. They encourage us to do what is best.

“Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.” Proverbs 15:22, The Message

So who is actually qualified to be our advisor?

  1. Someone who knows God.
  2. Someone who is actively making decisions that honor God.
  3. Someone who is wise.
  4. Someone who is older than you.  (Hear me out!  I think we can glean advice from our peers.  Some of my go-to advice givers are my friends.  But I also need the presence of some people who are a few steps ahead of me in life.)
  5. Someone who knows you.

Yesterday I talked about how I approached a trusted professor to gain advice.  I had spent a significant amount of time with her both in and out of the classroom.  She was mom to three grown kids of her own.  But more than any of these qualifiers I knew she would provide Godly wisdom because of the love she had for God and His Word.

In the end God’s voice is the one we listen for, but He has also poured out wisdom on His people.  You don’t have to enter the decision making process alone.  Link up and seek counsel!

Following,
Ginger

(P.S. I picked up most of these thoughts on seeking counsel from a SOMA North sermon in January of 2009.  Contact me if you’d like more info.)

Choosing

Dear Ginger,

How do I make a decision when it looks like both decisions are good options?  I’m weighing both choices and I don’t think either of them are a “bad” or “disobedient” way to go.  I’m trying to listen, but what if I don’t feel like I hear God? -J

Dear J- thanks for taking the time to send in your question!  I am smiling just thinking about how much I identify with you.  I don’t like choosing when I don’t feel confident.  I’m the person that doesn’t even like picking the restaurant.  My husband will quickly tell you that he tires of hearing me respond, “Wherever you want to go is fine with me.”  I’m not indecisive I just don’t want to make the WRONG choice.  I want everyone to be happy, and that includes my Heavenly Father.

So what happens when the choices become weightier than picking Italian food?  Think about the importance of the sort of questions listed below.

What do I do with my summers?
How do I pick a school?
What should I major in?
What do I do with THE REST OF MY LIFE?
Should I move or stay?
Is this guy THE guy?
Do I stay in this job or look for another one?
Should I buy this house?

Each of these moments held (at least for me) a healthy dose of trepidation and a desire to know God’s Will.  I was desperate to know EXACTLY what He wanted me to do.  I want to get it right.

My senior year of college I was tied up in worry knots.  I kept asking that God would show me exactly what to do after graduation.  I felt like I had endless options, but I only wanted one… His best.  So I made a plan.  I wasn’t hearing God audibly, so I decided to take a lesson from Elijah.  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah expects to find God in the storm, in the fire, and in the earthquake.  Instead, God reveals Himself in a gentle whisper.

I wanted to hear that whisper so I did the only thing I knew to do.  I quieted myself.  I tried driving my car out into the middle of a field, opening the sunroof and gazing at the stars.  I only heard the crickets and the sound of distant cars rumbling by on the highway.  I tried going in my closet, opening my Bible, closing my eyes and pointing at random verses… but I didn’t really get an answer.

I even went to the building known as “The Quiet Place” on campus and locked myself in a room.  I laid on the floor and tried to even quiet my breathing… but I only heard students working on a group project.  I felt desperate.  I had tears rolling down my face as I begged, “GOD, JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

I finally went and made an appointment with one of my favorite professors.  Through tears I explained to her my deep desire to know Gods will for my future.  I listed all the reasons why He should tell me exactly which job to take: I could obey Him quickly, I could stop worrying about this, I could spend more time praying about other things, etc.  When I finally stopped talking she met my gaze and asked “But what takes more faith – an arrow that says “go right here” or taking steps each day to draw closer to Him?  Your desire is to honor God with your heart, gifts, and talents.  Where can you possibly end up in this world and not be able to do that?”

My tears stopped and my head cleared.  Hebrews 11:1 became my mantra each day.  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Is God able to tell us exactly where and when to go?  Absolutely?  He does this countless times in Scripture and even does so audibly.  But does that mean He will speak to each of us that way in every situation?  Probably not.

If your heart is attune to Your Father and His given commands in the Bible, then step forward in faith even when you can’t see or hear his answer.  You have the Holy Spirit inside of you and His Word to guide you: make a decision and go.

Is it alright if we continue this question for the next couple of days?  I have a few more thoughts and stories that I think would directly and aptly apply.

Praying for you J – that you would have the faith to go in confidence.

Following,
Ginger

P.S. Check out the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14:1-23.

Not Knowing

 

“He went out, not knowing whither he went.” Hebrews 11:8

“Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?” – Oswald Chambers

Perhaps you’re like me and you find yourself both comforted and terrified by this statement at the same time.  My line of thinking tends to go a little something like this: “Lord, I trust you!  Do whatever you want.  Take me wherever you want… as long as I can see where we are headed.”  I want to follow, but I also want to lead.  How’s that working out for me?  Um, it’s kind of a standstill at the moment, to tell you the truth.  I’m realizing more than ever that if I want to step into the life that He has for me I will have to do just that: take a step.

Regardless what this week has in store, take a deep breath with me and remind yourself that the God of the Universe has designed us to know Him… not the road, or the step… but Him.

In her book, God Is No Fool, Lois A. Cheney writes:

“I once knew a young man who was searching for God. And I was touched by his search; and I prayed for his search; and I loved his search.He read a lot of books. He thought and thought about their ideas. He talked to many people, in pairs and in groups; they matched their minds with his and they furthered his search. He walked and sought God in the rain. He climbed and sought God on the mountain. He closed himself off from the world and sought God in his soul.He would describe his searchings and travels for truth. He would explain how he had meticulously and prayerfully sorted, rejected, and accepted.As the years went on, I changed from anticipating the recountings of his searches, to simply receiving them; to being bored with them: to avoiding them; and him. You see, he had fallen in love with his search. God just isn’t that hard to find.

Yes, God has revealed himself to us. In a myriad of ways He is telling us things about himself, communicating so everyone who will listen can hear. For that reason the Bible does not attempt to prove the existence of God. He needs no proof. His own testimony is proof enough for the honest heart.

“He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27,NIV). The moment you come to Jesus Christ, you will meet Him.”

Happy Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Cardboard

I watched this video for the first time three years ago with tears running down my face.  I watched this video for the hundredth time again today.  The tears found me again.  What grace.  What love.  What a Savior.

( You can say a lot on a piece of cardboard. People from The Austin Stone share the story of God’s redemptive work in their lives. Music by Salyut 7)

My cardboard front: Desperately seeking approval and attention from man.
My cardboard back: Joyfully playing to an audience of one. The Heavenly One.

What would your cardboard testimony say?

Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives…
2 Corinthians 3:3 (MSG)

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Keep Reading

Prior to the wedding, D and I lived in different cities.  We were both in the Phoenix area, but we lived almost an hour apart door to door.  This led to a lot of driving AND a lot of creative dates.  One of my favorite places to meet was always at local bookstores.  We brought our laptops, whatever book we were reading together, and our calendars.  Reading on our own time and then talking through books together was a great way to get to know one another intellectually and spiritually.  Our reading material caused us to ask questions and bring up topics that might not have come from a night out eating Italian food and catching a movie.

We started reading our first book together about two months after we started dating and have continued to do so even a year into our marriage.

Here was our reading list pre-marriage:
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Van Auken

Post Engagement:
A Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Before you plan your Wedding… Plan your Marriage by Dr. Greg Smalley

Books we’ve read aloud to each other:
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Voyage of the Dawntreader by C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters (we tried!) by C.S. Lewis
No Coins, Please by Gordon Korman
Cannery Row by John Steinback

We also really enjoy listening to books on CD on any of our long roadtrips.

I thoroughly recommend books as a way to deepen any relationship or community group. I would also take any recommendations for our next book to read aloud once we finish Cannery Row. :)

Happy Thursday!

Following,
Ginger

Dating

Prior to dating my husband I had been in three relationships, the longest of the three was five weeks in length.

I make no claims to be an expert on the topic of dating.  My track record shows that I am somewhat versed in the art of being rejected.

  But all of the introspection and relationship examination this week caused me to think about the few nuggets that I learned from my dating experiences.

ANOTHER GIANT LIST – THIS TIME THINGS I LEARNED WHILST DATING:

Live your own story!  Your story is not going to be the same as any of your friends or family members.  Don’t get discouraged or frustrated when the timing or situation seems to be different.  (I met my husband on E-harmony.  BAM.  There, I said it.)

-Be open and honest in your relationship.  You may be wishing for a prince or a perfect ten, but I can promise that you won’t ever find a mind reader.  It ain’t gonna happen.  If you don’t speak up you won’t have a say in your relationship

-Be WISE and follow some basic healthy dating principles. (Follow the links below!)
-The type of bait you use determines the fish you catch.
-Be yourself.
-Recognize that no other person can complete you.
-Maintain godly relationships outside the dating relationship.
-Open up your hands and entrust the relationship to God.
-Establish relational lifeboats.
-Guard your heart.

-Involve your community in your relationship.  It was important that both my friends and his friends got to see our relationship.  We visited each other’s churches and tried to see the other in their own “environment” as much as possible.  This was challenging as we had an hour distance between the two of us.

-Get some sleep.  In the moment it always feels like you’ve got to stay up talking on the phone, e-mailing, texting, or spending time together.  I’m always more prone to be emotional, irrational, or unwise when I’m tired.  Choose to be wise!

-Remember that you have purpose and identity ASIDE from this relationship.  Being in “this” does not define you.

-Pray every step of the way.  My prayer from the start of the relationship went something like this:  “God, if this is in any way not wise or good for me- then would you please hit me in the face with a frying pan of truth.  Use my friends.  Use your Word.  Just don’t let me plug my ears to anything you would say to me during this relationship.  I don’t trust my heart.  I trust your Word.  Help!”

I’m sure there are going to be hundreds of things that I missed in this post, so feel free to add to the list in the comment section.  What advice would you give for a dating relationship?

Following,
Ginger

(Check out THIS GUIDE if you are looking for more on this topic.)

One Year In

www.janezphotography.com

Aside from “How are you?”- the most frequent question I’ve been asked this year is “How’s married life?”

Short answer: it’s really good.

Long answer: I’m learning a lot.  I’m learning tons about myself, about my husband, and about my Heavenly Father.

Prior to marriage I had spent almost four years living by myself.  It would have been an adjustment sharing a space with anyone, much less a guy.

I’m trying to take the time to remember what this year has taught me.  I tend to do this at the end of every journal as well as at the start of a transition or the conclusion of a year.  I make a giant list.

GIANT LIST OF WHAT I’VE LEARNED DURING ONE YEAR OF MARRIAGE:

1. Loving someone isn’t a sentiment.  It’s a daily choice.  It is a repeated action.  In the first few months of marriage I found myself withholding love and affection at my most selfish points.  Imagine this:  I wake up on a Saturday morning excited to spend the morning making breakfast, enjoying the open windows, and just being.  Someone else (who will remain nameless) wakes up with a list of chores and activities to accomplish immediately.  An hour later I’m dirty and sweaty from rearranging the garage and finding myself close to tears because this isn’t my idea of being together.  My attitude is awful and my responses are short.  I knew I was in the wrong.  I hadn’t expressed my desire for what I wanted to do that morning, I was simply expecting my husband to figure it out by osmosis, I suppose.  I walked inside for a moment, took a deep breath, said a prayer that God would teach me how to love, and actively redirected the course of my attitude for the rest of the day.  When I stopped thinking about how I wasn’t feeling “loved” by the Saturday activity and started purposely loving my husband, I found myself thoroughly enjoying our time together.  I have a lot to learn in this area.

2. GRACE!  Rather than assuming the worst, I’ve learned to assume the best about my spouse.  This was a huge light-bulb moment for all of my friendships and relationships.  Just because someone doesn’t behave or respond the way that I think they should doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about me.  I have yet to benefit in the long run by getting all huffy and bothered.  Giving a strong dose of grace to a situation can do wonders in keeping a small thing like giving me advice on how to brown onions from exploding into, “YOU DON’T THINK I CAN COOK?”  Simmer down there, Chef.

3. I’m so much more emotional than I even thought possible.  I had this picture in my head that I was this strong, independent woman who moved to the desert all by her bad self.  I can’t tell you how many times my husband has found me crying this year.  8 times out of 10 I’m usually tired, overwhelmed, or my feelings have been hurt.  There.  I said it.  The other two times I really do have NO IDEA WHY I AM CRYING.  We’ve worked out a system where I can’t use “I don’t know why I’m crying” and not mean it.  I’m coming to terms with my tears.

4. People give and receive love in different ways.  This shouldn’t have surprised me.  I’ve spent time studying the Five Love Languages.  We’ve each talked about our love languages.  But this is where grace comes into play yet again.  (Catching that theme?)  I will have a really unhappy marriage if I decided that I ONLY receive love through written words of affirmation.  When we were dating I was in anguish over this.  I sent e-mails, texts, and even snail mail all the time.  What I failed to realize was that D didn’t have a work schedule that allowed for him to even read everything that I was sending his way, much less respond to everything that I was sending.  I had to stop and think of the HUNDREDS of other ways that he shows love and care.  I also have to keep myself from only showing love through written words.  Learning another language was more challenging than I expected – but totally worth it.

5. Prayer is powerful.  (Big surprise?)  Praying together is something I treasure.  I’m thankful for tearful and joyful moments speaking together with our Father.  But I’ll be honest, it doesn’t happen every day.  But that doesn’t mean that I stop praying for us and for him when we aren’t together.  Praying FOR my husband is precious and something that I don’t want to ever take for granted.

6. My favorite moments from this year have involved EXPERIENCES rather than buying things or receiving gifts.  I hope this never changes.  As much as I would like a bathroom door or grass in our backyard, I wouldn’t trade Saturdays of rollerblading together or mornings making breakfast together for all the bathroom makeovers in the world.

7. I expected to enjoy parts of this year, but I was also wary of the many comments that came with the first year of marriage.  “The first year is the hardest.”  Maybe.  But it’s not going to be the rule for every marriage.  If this was the hardest year of marriage then I can’t wait for the rest.  I love spending time with my husband.  In the words of the illustrious Jack Johnson, “It’s always better when we’re together.”

Ok.  That’s enough for today.  I promise this isn’t becoming a marriage blog.  I’m just continuing to share what God is teaching me through all of the arenas of life.  Come back tomorrow for more thoughts on what this date-less girl learned from her longest dating relationship.

Following,
Ginger