Monthly Archives: August 2013

Lessons on Loyalty, from the Pup.

I learn many lessons from our mini-golden-doodle, “Mr. Darcy.”  The golden-retriever side of him is a loyal and comforting presence. The poodle side is a quick learner and anti-shedder. The “mini” aspect makes him just the right size for an active yet travel-friendly lifestyle.

God couldn’t have blessed us with a better dog.

Recently, I have been training Darcy on the etiquette of “stay.”

When I walk out the front door, he tends to rush ahead of me. He slithers out the door like a reptile before I get a foot out. This, of course, leads to a little bit of frustration and disappointment.

pup waiting

But lately, the eager pup has been curbing his enthusiasm in favor of loyalty. He walks behind me when I approach the door. When I open it, he sits.

Even if I hold the door wide open, he waits patiently for my invitation to “come.”

I feel so respected by this loyal gesture. I used to think that “loyalty” meant a person or pup would follow me anywhere. Now I am grasping the follow detail of that definition.

Before, Darcy wanted to go anywhere I was. But his readiness resembled mannerless contempt.

Now, his willingness paired with patience is a true picture of loyalty.

My Impatience:

I wish I had part golden-retreaver and a hint of poodle in my gene mixture. Mr. Darcy’s patience is a lesson I have yet to learn.

I tend to rush ahead in my relationship with God. He “opens the door” (aren’t we all too familiar with that statement?) and I rush through it. I forget to wait patiently for the invitation. Just because God has given me a glimpse of the journey ahead, doesn’t mean He is asking me to take the lead.

A verse in Psalms describes this well:

Psalm 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to The Lord our God, until He is gracious to us.

My dog has re-phrased it for me slightly:

loyal puppy

I am so eager to be a part of Jesus’ work in the world. But my willingness prompts me to run ahead, take control, and “make it happen.” I don’t doubt Jesus wants me to be a part of His work. But He is asking for patience in my loyalty… to trust Him.

pup in bedUnfortunately, then I tend to swing to the extreme opposite: lazy and apathetic of God’s kingdom. Kicking back in my own little world, pursuing my own empire. Like the tired puppy I often find snuggled in our bed sheets when I get home.

Will I ever get a grasp on ready and waiting? How can I be faithful in the little things, yet always available to jump at the Holy Spirit’s invitation for something greater?

In a world of many distractions, I will fight hard to keep my eyes on The Lord, not just the exciting world through the “open door.”

Hopefully my pup will keep being a great example.

Are you struggling to wait for God’s invitation?

Join me in memorizing a verse or two on the subject. Which one is your favorite? Comment below or by clicking the “speech bubble” next to the title above.

Isaiah 40:31
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 27:13-14
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

James 5:7-8 
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Proverbs 3:5-6 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 33:20-22 
Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Isaiah 30:18
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.

James 5:11 
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Romans 5:3-4 
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Psalm 130:5-6 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

Lamentations 3:25
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

 

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Morning Routine: 10 Go for a Jog

jog

Catch that sunrise. Breathe in the clear air before the smog settles in.

Sounds wonderful… now, but not at 5:55am. I have a really hard time motivating myself to actually jump out of bed a little earlier to go for a walk first thing. I don’t think that 20 minutes of sleep actually do anything for me, but they are very convincing in the moment.

So, in order to win the debate against my snooze button and embrace the fresh morning air, I will now list 7 reasons WHY a morning jog is just so sensational:

1. Jogging (or walking) in morning is a heart-healthy habit. It gets the blood pumping. Reminds me to avoid walking around zombie-style all day, as if I don’t have a pulse. I may not need to be aware of my cardio-vascular system in my mid-twenties, but its never too early to start a habit that will be helpful later.

2. It reminds me to stretch. It is awkward to run without stretching my muscles first. So it helps me kick out 2 healthy habits in one.

3. Here’s what I get to jog by every morning:

20130818-163034.jpg
These epic alpacas are owned by the campus where we live, but we feel a certain attachment to them. They are, after all, our closest neighbors.

I feel like this reason alone should be sufficient. But I will continue.

4. 15 minutes of outdoor-activity freshens my perspective. I realize life is not all about laundry, missed blog posts, morning breath, and sleeping in. There is a big, bright world out there with God’s fingerprints all over it. Great reminder that the same beauty is imprinted on me. I am a beautiful part of creation too.

5. Jogging helps me stay in shape. I can strive to preserve the masterpiece God made me to be as a part of His creation.

6. It gives me a chance to listen to a motivating sermon podcast or my encouraging work out playlist. It’s another way I can multitask habits for a fantastic morning routine. I can simultaneously pursue outer fitness and focus on my inner-self looking more like Christ.

7. Cold showers feel great after a swift jog. I don’t worry about Shane taking all the hot water. Also, cold showers set a different tone for the day: energy and get-go. This is a productive change from my hot shower routine…. lackadaisical and dragging.

There you have it: 7 reasons not to hit the snooze button…Here’s to keeping up good habits in the morning!

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Morning Routine: 9 Make your Bed

make your bedMy mom always said it: It will start your day off better. And then, when the day is over, you can crawl into smooth sheets and rest well.

So do your evening self a favor: make your bed in the morning.

pup in bed

Here’s what happens when I don’t make my bed in the morning. Mr. Darcy thinks it is his puppy-nest.

What other fantastic morning habits do you maintain every day?

Any habits you WISH you were more consistent with?

 

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Morning Habit #8: Accomplish Something

to do listWhat better way to start your day than by finishing something. I think it sets a tone of productivity for the rest of my waking hours.

For me, it doesn’t have to be a huge thing! I don’t always have time in the AM to finish a big project. But I CAN start it.

It helps to break my “to-do” list down into smaller chunks. So if I have “Laundry” on the list, I might break it down to “towels”, “darks”, and “sheets.”

For the initial feeling of accomplishment, I’ll get sheets in the washer and hang them to dry within a half hour. Bam, by the time I’m done with a few stretches and a Bible study, I’ve got something done.

The trouble I get into is “one-track-mind” syndrome. Working from home allows me this luxury/problem.

If I get one thing done, I want to get it all done in that specific category. I will spend hours working on a set of tasks, creating more ways to accomplish within that category, while the rest of my list gets pushed aside.

I quite literally did this a month ago while editing my book. I even forgot to eat lunch.

I accomplished quite a bit, but my house was still a mess, my freelance writing deadlines were whizzing by, and my husband got home and I was still in my pajamas!

I think the key is this: take the feeling of accomplishment and sprinkle it on every thing in your path, like the accomplishment fairy. Don’t become so fixated you become the get-it-done monster.

Ok, maybe this is something I still need to work on. I would appreciate your suggestions.

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Morning Habit #7: Dress for a Purpose

dressed for a purposeOk, I definitely struggle with this.

At the moment, I am a “stay at home wife.” My husband’s job has strange hours, so we both decided it would be best if I was available when he was. So I work from home (sort of), by maintaining our college ministry administration stuff, and writing.

I hope this will make the eventual transition to “stay at home mom” a little easier, but we will see. The one thing I have mastered is staying in my pajamas all day.

Well, really my pj’s are more like work out clothes, but that doesn’t mean I am actually working out.

This is one habit I really need to change.

Lately I’ve been asking as I get dress, “what’s the purpose?”

I am not going into the office. I will probably just be cleaning or writing most of the day. And, regardless of how lazy my outfit choice is, there are still people trolling Walmart who make me look just fine.

But I realized my day has much more meaning than that. I am a wife to an amazingly diligent man. With the right attitude, I can help to be his sanctuary, his “welcome home”, in the way I present myself. So I’ve been dressing with a purpose: to be a complimentary and welcoming wife to my husband.

I put on a cute pair of jeans and a comfy white t-shirt. The picture above is actually one that Shane took randomly one day. I take it to mean he liked the way I looked. So I try to dress for him more often. I want him to feel like he is worth the effort.

Of course, I feel better about myself too. When I put a little bit of effort into it, for Shane and for me, the day goes well. Or maybe the day is a disaster, but at least I don’t look like a disaster.

We have a lot of power in our outfit choice. We can be completely self-centered about it, wearing whatever we feel is comfy, or will draw the most (or least) attention to ourselves.

Or we can say that the people around us are worth the effort. Whether its our family, loved ones, co-workers, or co-shoppers at the Walmart line.

How about you? Do you struggle to dress for attention, or are you like me who hardly puts any effort into her wardrobe? How can you start a fantastic morning habit and dress in a way that honors God and brings a loveliness to the world?

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Morning Habit #6: Stretch

Stretch

Stretch in the morning.

It is pretty self-explanatory.

My dog does it. Every morning. He never gets distracted by his breakfast or going on a walk. He never forgets to stretch. He sets a good example.

All living creatures need to wake their bodies up. Stretching gives our muscles a moment to expand and prepare for the tasks of the day. It gives our lungs a chance to breathe in as much life as possible. It releases lots of kinks and knots that inhibit proper blood flow, which brings that life giving oxygen to all parts of the body.

Need a moment?

Move over Twix! Candy bars don’t always cut it. But I have noticed that stretching gives my mind a much needed moment. Stretching is a slow activity. It requires us to stop. Breathe slow. Move gingerly. Take inventory on how we are doing. Not many activities in life have this effect.

I particularly appreciate my morning stretching routine because it lessens chronic back pain. I have always been a busty girl with a tendency towards clumsiness. Its an excellent recipe for constant, dull lower back pain. Really impressive posture can’t always compensate for few falls over the years.

A few months ago, I realized my back pain was practically gone. At this time, I was stretching and jogging almost every day. I prioritized healthy habits.

Dropping those habits during a hectic season brought back the pain. I am anxious to be a habitual morning stretching-guru again now.

Getting Started:

There is a plethora of stretching tutorials on Pinterest to help get you started. You could also join a pilates class at your local gym (I do not recommend yoga unless the program offers a specifically non-spiritual experience).

Here are a few of my favorite/most helpful stretches (I am not affiliated with the following links whatsoever):

A stretch to rotate hips and ease lower back pain: click here.

More stretches for hips/back: click here.

Stretches to ease neck and shoulder tension: click here.

Every day stretches: click here.

Lets take the time to wake up our minds and bodies. I’m sure our muscles will thank us.

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Morning Habit #5: Eat Something Delicious

Eat Breakfast

 It doesn’t have to be a decadent breakfast. Just one you enjoy. 

I love to set the tone for my day with something yummy. It reminds me to

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

Enjoying a delicious breakfast doesn’t require indulgence. I try to mix it up each day of the week. I am a sucker for a good bowl of cereal, but I know this isn’t always the best for me. So I make eggs a couple of days and enjoy a fruit smoothie on others. I might even make scones or a coffee cake for special occasions (thanks for the tradition, mom).

But I always enjoy my breakfast. I don’t eat low-fat breakfast substitutes or skip the meal. That sets a bitter tone for me. Its like setting a pattern to skip on the good things in life, or find a substitute for what is most delightful.

Of course, breakfast is very important to me because it is my time with Jesus. Having “Breakfast with Jesus” is a crucial reminder in the day, not just to taste of God’s goodness, but also to trust in His sovereignty. Read more about this lesson that Jesus taught Peter, and how it impacted me, here.

So, if you are wondering how in the world you can manage 10 habits every morning, here is a small suggestion: receive your physical nourishment and your spiritual sustenance at the same time. Read your Bible as your eat or prepare your breakfast.

Breakfast+Bible… might be the most delicious combination ever.

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Morning Habit #4: Read the Bible

Read the Bible

 I realize this habit can be a difficult one to start… or even keep up for that matter.

I have been a Christ-follower for a long time, and I still have trouble studying the Scriptures of His story.

I have many excuses to avoid reading the Bible, but none are more prevalent than “I am too busy.”

God did a number on my pride when He lead me to write the “Bible Study Tips” series, which addresses the top 10 excuses we make for not reading His Word.

So I have no excuse. Like I said in the beginning, I need to reinstate habits that will drive me to physical, emotional, and spiritual health again. No habit has greater impact on holistic health than the constant intake of truth from God’s Word.

So I will lay my excuses down and “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:6

He is worthy, and it is far greater use of my time than my “social media habit.”

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Morning Habit #3: Drink Tea

drink tea

 Or Coffee.

Drink tea or coffee or whatever beverage fits the occasion of the day.

Just savor it.

Smell the aroma, relish the liquid warming you from the inside out. Even on hot summer mornings. Let it thaw your heart to be receptive to God and others throughout the day.

And drink it in a charming mug.

Something that makes you smile. I have several favorites, including a mug I found on sale a Pier 1. The handle is shaped like a parakeet. It is adorable.

Or this orange mug, from Starbucks. My amazing friend sent it along with the tea and card pictured, to help me celebrate the completion of my writing studio. She is amazing (and an excellent photographer. All of my photos with the “AG” symbol are from her. Amazing talent I tell you. Catch more of her gift to humanity  Here.)

Why?

Because tea is amazing. And it forces you to stop and enjoy the little things. Good way to start the day.

I think there are some other health benefits, but I don’t remember them right now. For me, tea is best taken with 2 scoops of meaningful music, and one lump of a journal in my lap.

Find more great habits for a purely fantastic morning routine here.

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Morning Habit #2: Keep a Journal

JournalAnchored.

The anchor frame I used on this picture is significant. I believe that journaling keeps me grounded and “anchored”, if you will, through each season of life.

Through journaling, I connect intimately with God. Journaling helps me process the confusing stuff in my heart. Also, it is an avenue of prayer, for myself and others.

Most importantly, my journals are a record of God’s continual work in my life.

Recently, I was blessed with a few quiet hours to glance through a few of my old journals.

I sipped an ammaretto americano and read page after page of God’s goodness in my life. So many notes, doodles, questions, prayers, and musings filled those pages. I am so glad I have maintained a habit of journaling these past few years. Reading them again gives me so much perspective. What was, what I hoped for, what I was anxious about.

And how God walked me through it all.

The hectic changes of the last few months made me forget journaling. With that, I lost perspective. The absence of yesterdays notes is the absence of a road sign or a mile marker. I have no clue where I am.

“Here I raise mine ebenezer”

The Bible refers several times to Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7). You probably know the name from A Christmas Carol, or from my favorite hymn, “Come Thou Fount.”

But most people don’t know what an ebenezer is. In Hebrew, it is “Stone of Help.” (reference)

We refer to it in “Come Thou Fount” as a monument or road sign. Like many prominent characters in the Old Testament, we sing “here I raise mine ebenezer,” to say, “I am putting a marker here in this moment to honor God, and to remind me in later years of the significance of this relationship.”

My journal acts as an ebenezer.

What’s Inside:

Each journal entry is varied from the last. But I try to include a few specific things to help me remember the journey.

  • Date: What day is it? Anything special, like a Birthday, holiday, day off, etc.?
  • Song of the Day: I usually wake up with a song in my head. So I write it down. It is interesting to see how the songs change. I think it helps to define what kind of season I am in.
  • Describe what is going on: Is it a cloudy day? Am I sitting at church, preparing to hear a sermon? What event is approaching, or just happened. These notes help to get my emotions and thoughts in gear to start processing life on paper.
  • Processing through: This is crucial for me. I am an extrovert in that I have to process the stuff in my brain outside of myself. Most extroverts do this by talking to someone. I find that writing it down is a helpful alternative (but not a complete substitute to a good friend.)
  • Verse/Psalm of the day: Journaling can be an intense “me-centered” activity. I know that my heart needs to process things, but my words and emotions can run wild, creating havoc. I write down a verse, often from Psalms, to keep me grounded in truth.
  • Doodle: Sometimes words don’t cut it. Recently, God told me “wait” on a specific dream I was praying about. I had a mental image of God letting the air out of my hot-air balloon until I was ready to fly. So I’ve been doodling hot-air balloons. It’s a simple way of acknowledging God’s kindness and my willingness to be patient (even when it is difficult).
  • Prayer: I always felt like I should have this grand prayer time with the Lord at the end of the day. Well, that never happens. Our nights are typically very busy. We do most of our socializing in the evening (that’s college ministry for you).

I realized I need to seek God while I am most available, mentally and physically, to give complete attention to Him. The morning is often my best shot.

You do not need a journal to pray, but it is helpful for me. It keeps me focused.

I am able to recognize my sin, write it down, and repent of it. I can cross it out, or draw a big “X” over it, symbolizing that God has forgiven me and is cleansing me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I can worship God, noting His awesome characteristics:

You are Holy,

Jesus, thank you for your kindness to me,

Your love never gives up,

Oh, Lord, you are so GOOD!

Open the eyes of my Heart:

This system is an excellent way for me to prepare to receive His Word. I try to journal with my Bible in my lap, referencing a verse here and there. But I don’t view this as studying the Bible. Merely preparing my heart to receive truth. Actual reading of the Bible comes later, sometimes with my journal alongside.

I think the difference between the two is this:

  • Journaling is about my heart.
  • Bible study is about God’s heart.

But we will look at Bible study later in 10 Habits for a Purely Fantastic Morning Routine.

Thanks for joining me!

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