What Did You Read In January?

One of my goals this year is to read at least 1 book/month. This is probably my easiest goal to meet..I didn’t aim very high, so that at the end of the year, I will have met at least one of my goals. :)

So, for the month of January I exceeded my goal! I read two books! The first book was The Syringa Tree and you can read my review here.

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The second book that I read was Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I had heard great things about this book, but I can’t say it was a favorite of mine. Because she was not writing from a Christian perspective, there were things that I did not agree with her about. Of course, not all books have to be written through a Christian worldview to be a good book, but in this particular book it caused me to disagree with her recommended approach to some things. With that being said, there were definitely things that I did agree with and I took away some good ideas and encouragement.

My February is off to a good start, as I have already completed one book this month! What about you? How are you doing with your reading goals for 2016? What did you read in January?? Please feel free to share!!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Goal #3 for 2016

I’ve been sharing my goals for 2016. Goal #1 is to read at least one book a month, Goal #2 is to take control of my health, and today I’ll share Goal #3.

Goal #3 is to read through the Bible in a year. I have read all of the books of the Bible…many several times…but I’ve never read through with an intentional plan for completing the entire Bible in one year. This year I am using a reading plan called For the Love of God that is put out by the Gospel Coalition. You can sign up at their site and every day you will receive an email with the day’s reading and a short devotion. The daily reading is approximately 4 chapters…one from four different books of the Bible; so far it’s been two Old Testament books and two New Testament books.

I really like doing it this way. It’s really easy to get bogged down in Leviticus or Numbers if you try to read straight through starting at Genesis. This way there are great glimpses of how the Old Testament and the New Testament really carry the same theme throughout the entire Bible. So far I’ve completed the books of Matthew, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Currently, I am reading the books of Genesis, Job, Mark and Romans.

Even though I’ve listed this as Goal #3, I really consider it my most important goal. God’s Word is active and alive. It has answers to all my questions. It provides me with comfort, wisdom, guidance and peace. It is the number one way that the Lord communicates with me. As a Christ follower, it is my spiritual nourishment and without a daily intake of it, my spiritual health suffers tremendously.

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If you are not already reading the Word every day, I highly encourage you to start. If you’ve never read the Bible before, begin in the book of John…it’s a great place to start! If you have read the Bible, but only in bits and pieces and only on an occasional basis, I encourage you start reading the Bible every day…even if it’s just a chapter or two from Psalms or Proverbs. And if you are ready to go deeper in your knowledge of the Word, I would encourage you to pick a reading plan and commit to reading through the Bible…cover to cover! There are lots of plans to choose from, but this is the link to the For the Love of God plan that I am using: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/loveofgod/

We all make time for other things in our lives: tv, facebook, other social media, movies, books, magazines, hobbies, etc. I challenge you to make it a priority to spend time in God’s Word every day. It certainly pays greater dividends than any of these other activities!

Even though we are already a month into 2016, it’s not too late to start. Start today and make it a daily habit!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

The Blessing and Curse of Looking Back

Isn’t it funny how when the Lord is trying to teach you something, it seems to come at you from all directions…..in a book, in a scripture verse, in a song, in a conversation? Well, that’s what has been happening with me lately. It seems like almost daily, I’m hearing this one thing every where I turn.

So, I decided it was time for me to sit down and really listen to what God was trying to tell me. I feel like God has been shouting to me, “Don’t look back!” To be honest, that’s not something I really wanted to hear. But as I sat down and began searching out what God was saying, I realized that what He was really telling me was, “Don’t look back, but don’t forget.” As I prayed and studied and listened, it started to become clearer and make more sense to me. I realized that “looking back” can be dangerous, but it can also be beneficial. It can be a curse, but it can also be a blessing.

Looking back can be a curse because it can lead to sadness and depression. If I am so caught up in the “woe is me” syndrome, then I can’t see beyond myself to serve others. Like Jesus, I am called to be a servant. In Mark 9:35, Jesus says, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to grieve…I will always grieve. Half of me was stripped away, how can I not grieve?? But if I let grief consume my life, then I can’t be a servant; therefore, looking back would be a curse.

Looking back can be a curse because it can block my view of the future. If I am always absorbed in the past, I will have no goals, no hope, no excitement for the future. I will not be able to trust or believe God’s word when He says, “I have it all planned out–plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jer. 29:11)

Looking back can be a curse because it can keep me from fully engaging the present. I have to make the decision to not let the past steal my present. Continually looking back can cause me to miss what God wants to do in my here and now. Is 43:18-19 says, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” What a curse it would be to miss out on that!

Looking back can be a curse if I live in the world of “whys” and “what ifs.” This world can quickly lead to the sins of anger and bitterness. These sins could easily entangle me and hinder me from running the race that has been marked out for me. (Heb 12:1) I don’t want that to be true of me. I want to run the race with perseverance and finish strong.

Looking back can be a curse if I spend so much time focusing on what I have lost, that I can’t see what I do have. Ecc. 7:10,14 says, “Don’t always be asking, ‘Where are the good old days?’ Wise folks don’t ask questions like that. When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” Regardless of what I may have lost, I still have SO much and I never want to be seen by my Father as a child with an ungrateful heart.

But…looking back is not the same as forgetting. Although looking back can be a curse, it can also be a blessing!

Looking back can be a blessing because it reminds me of what a great man Greg was, and how blessed I was to have had him in my life. A blessing to remember all that he taught me and how his love for me truly exemplified how Christ loves the church. Looking back can be a blessing for my girls as they had a great role model of what they want in a husband. And a blessing for my son to know what character qualities he wants to have in his life as a husband and a father. And remembering how he demonstrated not only his love for his family, but also for his Lord as he lived his day-to-day life, and especially as he walked the path of suffering.

Looking back can be a blessing as I remember God’s faithfulness to us as we traveled a difficult road. He promised He would always be with us (Matt.28:20), and He was. He promised us peace (John 14:27), and He gave it. He was faithful then, He will be faithful now.

Looking back can be a blessing as I remember how the Lord has comforted me, so that I in turn may be a comfort to others. “He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (2 Cor 1:4)

Looking back can be a blessing because He tells me to ponder and dwell on and not forget His blessings towards me. If I don’t look back, I might forget. “Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.” Ps 77:11-12 “O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless His holy name! O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!” Ps 103:1-2

Looking back can be a blessing because not only does God tell me to remember His blessings toward me, He also instructs me to tell the world what He has done. “So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves; Offer thanksgiving sacrifices, tell the world what He’s done–sing it out!” (Ps 107:21-22)

I know that I will forever look back, but my prayer is that my looking back will cause blessings in my life and the lives of others, and not curses! And as I look forward, my prayer is that I will give my heart permission to beat again.

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Goal #2 For 2016

At the beginning of the month, I talked about the fact that even though resolutions and goals would not be my major focus of 2016, I still have chosen to set several goals for myself. I already shared goal #1 in an earlier post.

Today I’ll share goal #2…..taking control of my health. Many of you probably have a similar goal. I’ll admit, this is a tough one for me. You see, I’ve always eaten anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. I also hate to exercise (or to sweat, for that matter :) ). But as I get older, this doesn’t seem to be working out too well for me. My last physical revealed that some of my labwork was not exactly where it should be. Every morning I seem to wake up with a new ache or pain, and that dreaded scale keeps creeping up. :(

Honestly, I’ve just not been a good steward of my body over the last several years. So, I’ve decided to try to change some of these things. In order to meet this goal, I have a list of a few things that I’m trying to do.

1. Make healthier food choices. I’ve been eating more salads…which I love, but it just takes a little more effort. I’m also trying to drink several healthy smoothies each week. It’s a good way to get fruits and veggies in. Also, I’m trying to cut back on sweets…so far I’m not doing too great with this. :(

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2. Eat more flax-seed and oats, both of which help to lower cholesterol. I put flax-seed on my salads and both flax and oats in my smoothies.

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3. Remember to take my Calcium every day. I never take medicine, so I struggle with remembering to do this.

4. Go to the gym 3x/week. I’m happy to report that I have succeeded in this for the last two weeks! I keep hoping that one day I’ll turn in to one of those people that LOVE to go to the gym and their day is just not complete if they don’t go. Well….it hasn’t happened yet. Every single day, I dread going to the gym.

5. And as a bonus, I’ve signed up for my first 5K, thanks to the encouragement of a friend. And the weird thing is…I’m kind of excited about it!

I’d love to hear about your goals for making healthy changes this year! Maybe you’ll inspire me…I need all the inspiration I can get!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Babies, Babies, Babies!!

I loved the baby/toddler stage with my children and I really miss having little ones around. So, I got my baby fix this week by being able to spend time with these sweet little blessings!

We welcomed the newest member of our family, my precious great-niece, Averie Delilah! She was born on Jan. 14 and is so beautiful and so tiny….5lbs 9oz. She really wanted to come to her own baby shower, so she arrived three weeks early. :)

Averie Delilah

Averie Delilah

Yesterday Emilie brought Marleigh, the little girl that she keeps, over to the house for a while. Marleigh and I got to snuggle and read a couple of books together…she chose Aladdin and Lady and the Tramp. :)

Marleigh and her stack of books

Marleigh and her stack of books

Yesterday evening, the kids and I had fun watching my great-nephew, Zachary, while his mom went out for a bit. We’re trying to get him more familiar with us and our home (and with Chipper!) since we are going to be keeping him for about ten days this summer! We’re just a liiiitle excited about that!

Zachary Gregory

Zachary Gregory

So thankful for the chance to spend some time with these cuties this week! They make me smile! :)

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

How Do You Combat Fear And Anxiety??

I’ve never really been a fearful or anxious person, but I must admit, since Greg’s death, I have struggled with these things. My perfect, little world had been shattered…it only makes sense that I would struggle with some fear and anxiety, right??

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with these emotions? I know that I’ve mentioned here before that my worst times are usually at night. It seems that some nights, as soon as my head hits my pillow, my mind starts racing and I CAN NOT make it stop! I guess it’s not so much fear as it is anxiety. I start thinking about how much I miss him, how much I wish he was still here, how much I wish he was here for the kids. Then it moves into anxiety about my future, anxiety about my present. All the things that need to be done…the things that Greg use to do; the things that I don’t know how to do. I start feeling pressured about my ever-growing to-do list and even worse, the growing list of decisions that must be made just regarding life in general. It was just so much easier and less stressful when there were two of us making decisions together…house decisions, parenting decisions, schooling decisions, financial decisions…life decisions!! I would be awake for hours some nights, just not able to shut my brain down so that I could rest.

So, early on in my days of being a widow, I did the only thing that I knew to do…recite Scripture and remind myself of God’s promises. (Plus I found Advil PM to be my friend!) In the beginning, the anxious thoughts often drowned out the Scripture, but I would pray that the Lord would help me to take every thought captive and I would turn my thoughts back to Him.

One of the verses that I would quote almost every night before I got in bed is Proverbs 3:24….”When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” I claimed this promise over myself almost every night. The verse is very dear to my heart.

When I was having some remodeling done on my house last year, I found myself very sad to see parts of my house taken down and thrown away. Greg and I had this house built 24 years ago and it felt like more of him was being taken away from me….if that makes any sense. So I decided to salvage a few pieces from the house…two windows and the front door…not even knowing what I would do with them.

A few months before Greg passed away, he had redone our bedroom for me. New carpet, new paint and trim, new furniture, etc. I wanted to hang something over the bed, but I could never find anything that seemed like the right thing. Then one day, I walked past the windows that I had saved from our house and I knew exactly what I wanted! I wanted the frame to match some picture frames in my room and I wanted to have Prov. 3:24 painted or stenciled on the glass. I would hang it over my bed to remind me of the Lord’s promise to make my sleep sweet!

So, with the help of several sweet friends, I got it done and I love it!!

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I still have some tough nights, but recently my nights are filled more with Scripture and less with anxiety and fear (and a little less Advil PM too! :) )

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Goal #1 For 2016

Is one of your goals this year to read more? I’ve always enjoyed reading, but this year I hope to be more intentional about it. I have set a goal to read at least twelve books….that’s one a month. It’s really not that lofty of a goal compared to some of you avid readers! I feel pretty sure that I will read more than twelve, but I want to have at least one goal that I meet (and maybe exceed!), so I’ve decided to keep it at twelve.

And, I’m happy to say that I’ve completed my first book for 2016! It’s okay that I started it in 2015, right?? I started it in December, but got sidetracked with another book and so didn’t actually finish this one until yesterday.

One of the reasons that it took me so long to finish this book is that it just didn’t capture me. It was pretty slow-moving and seemed to not flow real well. But….I am the type person that just HAS to finish a book once I’ve start it, so I persevered. I must say that the last 1/4 of the book did hold my interest a little better, but overall The Syringa Tree just didn’t do anything for me.

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What about you? Did you set a goal to read more in 2016? If so, how are you doing? What are you reading right now? I’d love for you to share. I always enjoy hearing what other people are reading!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

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