Friday, January 3, 2014

When You Give God Some of Your Time...

It amazes me how much He can accomplish in me when I finally submit to Him, when I finally knuckle down and carve a slice of my day out for a quiet moment with Him.

I am incapable of being one of those morning dates with God kind of people - waking up at the crack of dawn to spend time with Him before my family wakes is impractical in this season of my life; the only quiet moments my daughter gives me are in the afternoons while she naps and the evenings after she goes to bed for the night.

I have spent a lot of time lamenting because I couldn't do the morning thing, enough so that I let myself get derailed by it.

I am the kind of person who often [mistakenly] thinks that if something can't be done "right" then it shouldn't be done at all. Honey, let me tell you that there is no wrong way to spend time with God! I have learned this the hard way, the stubborn and inconvenient way, the I-know-better-than-God way. And what I learned is that He is ready to take you as you are!

All you can manage is ten measly minutes in the shower, or the car, or right after the kids go to bed? Good; He'll take it! He wants to reserve that spot in your life. And on top of that, He wants to maximize this time.

Any time spent with God is time well spent, a sound investment. I can't count the number of years that I have logically understood this concept in my head, while denying it in my heart... Until I finally just gave in and did it, gave Him time.

It's not always a lot of time, and sometimes it is still sporadic - because I am human, horribly flawed, and still learning... but when I did show up, He showed me that it was worth it!

I started last year knowing that I had to make a change in my life, knowing that I needed to rely on Him far more than I had ever let myself before. I was drowning in the depression of being away from home and married to the Marine Corps. And though I had really fought a good fight on my own, I was losing ground faster than I could measure it!

Change began with a simple Bible study on the Proverbs 31 Wife of Valor and the very difficult choice of giving up some time with my husband. It wasn't easy.

Instead of falling asleep next to my husband, I chose to stay up an hour later on my own while the house was quiet. At first my husband resented this and felt neglected, and in all honesty, he probably was. But God took that opportunity to heal some very old and raw wounds that I had spent years trying to fix myself [ I am not a good physician]. The blessing became my newfound strength and ability to better care for my husband in other areas of our lives; it became my newfound desire to pray for him.

And the change in me, I discovered, was profound. I was [am] entirely the same woman I've always been, and yet better... better in that way that only God can make better, secure in a way that is only obtained through unshakable faith in God's unending and perfect love, capable in way that only God is capable [of moving mountains].

God used that time to prepare me, too. When life became unbelievably difficult towards the second half of last year, I had His foundation beneath me and His grace to strengthen and refresh me. When the fiery trial came and burnt so much of the film flam that I had invested my time in, I stood in the midst of the flames and took count of the blessings that remained... and I felt His grace and His strength move me, sustain me.

I continued to give Him my time, and I felt Him pour His compassion and grace into me, watched Him rebuild my marriage with the strength of gold, silver, and precious gems - not the hay that my husband and I had chosen to use. I saw my life transform into something new. As Capital Kings sing, "[He's] got me living how I've wanted all along."

And now, in this new season of my life... sometimes the only time I have to give Him are the ten quiet minutes in the shower [seriously], but that's enough.

He moves in my heart and whispers to me, "Write, Mollie, write. It doesn't have to be pretty or perfect. You don't need a fancy computer or graphics software; I have given you everything you need right here, right now. So write! Don't hem and haw over the content; I'll handle that! Just write already!"

So, I am writing... and I don't know how often it will be, or how poetic or profound it will be, or to what purpose it will serve... but I am giving Him time, and I am writing!

Friday, November 8, 2013

My Mission Statement needed a Heavenly Perspective

I've spent the last 6 years or so trying to nail down a "mission statement". I discovered Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and I knew that I needed to define my "mission" if I was ever going to have any clue of where I was going or what I was doing with my life. I mean, how could I prioritize my time if I had no idea what my priorities were?

Henry David Thoreau said, “In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” I really have no idea who he is or what he did to merit that anyone record or remember his words, but those words stuck with me none the less. Never mind the altitude, how could I hit any target if I didn't have the slightest idea what I was aiming at?

So I put pen to paper and, following the directions given to me, I wrote down everything that came to mind. It was good -I usually thing everything I write is good- but it didn't sing; it didn't resonate with me. Instead, all the great words fell flat on the paper and I felt even less motivated than when I had begun.

Next, I tried the free wizard on Franklin Covey's website. I answered the probing questions then tweaked it on my own in Microsoft Word. It was better. I learned some things about myself and pointed out some rather obvious fluff about myself. (I mean, when I wrote "I am most effective when I am happy and positive", seriously who isn't? How does that help me stay positive? And what happens when I am inevitably not happy and positive?) It made me feel a little more energized about what I was doing, but it still missed the mark. I would look at that paper and think, "Is this all there is? People rave about their statements, and mine is just... meh. No singing."

I resigned myself to thinking that mission statements were just another crock of bull sold to insecure self-help junkies, and I certainly resembled that conclusion at the time. So, I filed my statement away and decided to do some soul searching, because maybe I just had no idea of who I was or what I wanted. And boy was I right!

Fast forward several years and I have a paradigm shift. Suddenly, I realize that there's more to my life than my selfish pursuit of liberty and pleasure above all else. I discovered that all the statements about material gain that had felt empty years before felt that way because they were empty pursuits. Sure, I wanted things and stuff, but they had lost priority when I fell head-over-heels in love with Jesus. Suddenly, like a light bulb had clicked on in my head cartoon-style, I knew who I was and I knew my purpose.

But the mission statement was the farthest thing from my mind at that time. Then one unassuming night during my private study time with God, I just felt His Spirit stirring in me. I had words in my heart that I needed to get out. So I grabbed some paper and wrote the following:

My life is a great gift from God. The blood of Christ has redeemed me and through His blood and sacrifice, I am born again and no longer dead. He is the Great Love of my life.

I will choose daily to remember that every new morning is a gift and an opportunity. Therefore, the following is the manner in which I will choose to live my life:

- I will celebrate every breath I take because each one is a blessing. I will seek to let go of petty things and transgressions. I will choose to remember that every good thing, big or small, is of and from God. And I will stand strong and courageous in the face of opposition because I know that, even in the midst of the storm, God is with me, cares for me, strengthens me, and blesses me.

- I will seek out God's Truth as I continuously purpose to be more like Him. By actively seeking Him and keeping His Word (Jesus) close to my heart daily, God will provide all that I need to triumph over the lies, temptations, and struggles of this world.

- I will remember that God alone gives me my value and dignity and that no one can take them from me. I am never alone: God goes with me everywhere. (Therefore, I will aim to not take Him into dark and sinful places.) I do not have to fear because He goes before me to clear my path, stands behind me, and walks beside me as I travel through this life. I am never left exposed, bare, or vulnerable to anyone because I am clothed in His strength and majesty.

- I will surrender and forfeit every aspect of my life and submit every thought in my head to Him, His Will, and His Word. I will work with diligence to uphold His Word in my every thought and action and I will bring before Him every darkness and transgression I create so that they may be rebuked, be healed, and be perfected.

- I will endeavour to fill my time with productive tasks and cast off the chains of idleness. I will remember that, in all things, I work for God and not for man.

- I will cultivate humility, compassion, and patience in my life because that is the example my Lord has given me.

- I will live a life of more than just planning. I will take action - because my God is an active God!

- I will remember that my marriage is the single most important relationship in my life, second only to my relationship with Christ. I will be ever conscious that it is the flesh-and-blood example of my Spiritual covenant with Christ. Therefore, I will purpose to love my husband as Christ and as Christ loves me - because the three of us are intertwined into one fiber, never to be broken by earthly hands. My husband is my own flesh and I will treat him with great care, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. I will also stand by him and support him in all seasons of life and work to renew our relationship daily.

It only took fifteen minutes, and when I was finished I realized what it was. It was the mission statement that I had agonized over for hours upon hours stretched over many years, that very statement that I had tried to force out so many times! And here it had flowed so easily as God's Word guided my hand! Once I had realigned my perspective, there it had poured out, as effortlessly as water from a glass! And, as I'm sure you have guessed, this one sings!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Experience with Morning Quiet Time with God, and Why it's Not Always the Best Plan...

Champagne Castle by Slack12.

I won't deny that Jesus gives us an excellent example (well He always does, but specific to this post) in Mark 1:35, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." I have read it over and over again suggested in many Bible studies and devotionals that a Christian should wake up early and spend time with God in His Word. I'm not going to say that's a bad idea, because it is excellent to get our thoughts on God first thing in the morning. But, I want to encourage Christians to take heart if morning quiet time is just not feasible at this season in their lives; God just might have other plans for you...

My experience with morning quiet time...

I really really wanted to wake up bright and early in the mornings and spend quiet time with God, but it wasn't working out for me. An obstacle was that I have a toddler who is an early riser and the moment anyone else is awake in the house, so it she. This meant that I would either have to wake up at 4 am or spend time with God in the evenings after she went to bed. Another obstacle was that I just couldn't seem to get myself out of bed before 8 am and couldn't seem to get to sleep before midnight - so waking up at 4 am was absolutely out of the question. And yet another obstacle was the difference in the state of my mind in the morning and at night - somehow, for some reason I couldn't fathom, I was having an easier time opening myself up to scripture and concentrating on studies at night than I was in the morning. 

I decided to go with the flow of my body and spend my study time with God at night after my family was asleep and the house was still and quiet. But, I have to admit, I felt guilty because I wasn't doing it "right". Sure, I was spending time with God and that's what is important (and was having a grand time doing it, too), but certainly there had to be a purpose to why everyone pushed for morning time. Was I missing out on some great blessing because I couldn't seem to get myself out of bed early enough?

At this same time, I was having horrible problems with feeling very vulnerable at night before bed. It was common for me to think very depressing and self-depreciating thoughts, hold arguments with my husband, generate storms of paranoia and worry, and pick apart my own self-esteem. The enemy of my soul seemed to be having a grand time taking advantage of me in my weakened state and it took all my energy every day to piece things back together after each terrible night. Of course, this had been rather commonplace for me since I was a teenager and was feeling the full force of my mother's emotional abuse, so I assumed it was the way life had to be and thought nothing of it.

I used the nights for my time with God for over ten weeks, and in that time I began to set up a habit. I got used to thinking about God before bed and holding a bit of an open prayer with Him as I feel asleep after my study time. The study time at night made it easier for me to keep Him in my thoughts because it was the last thing I did before bed. Some nights I still had a difficult time. But instead of giving in to the negative thoughts, I found myself either pleading for God's help, reciting scripture, or simply telling myself over and over in my head, "God loves me, no matter what!" The more I kept up with this habit, the easier my nights became, and the easier it was for me to wake up earlier in the morning!

When I looked back on events, I realized that having my quiet time at night was exactly what God wanted! He used that time to fortify my nights and helped me to greet the day easier. I realized that maybe there was a reason why I was facing so much resistance to waking early, and it solidified the idea that meeting God exactly where I am is the best plan.

I hope that anyone who reads this can take heart in knowing that you're not "wrong" or "bad" if waking in the morning and spending time with God just doesn't fit. Sure, it's a nice ideal to strive for, but maybe God has other plans for you right now. Maybe there is something in your life that can be healed through night, evening, or afternoon quiet time. Don't do like I did and feel guilty because you're not fitting some standard that other Christians have established. Follow God. ;)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When you have a good heart...

I would like to take a minute to discuss this image. I saw it circulating on Facebook quite a while ago and I had to snag it up, which is something that I do from time to time when something in particular bothers me. (Which it is actually probably not a really good habit to go collecting things that bother you. But I do it so I can discuss it - if with no one else, then with my husband, poor guy.)

Anyway, what bothers me so much about this is that I don't think that these qualities are necessarily those of someone with a good heart. In fact, it sounds more like someone who is trying to make an excuse or make a reason for the fact that they think they are a good person doing good things, but somehow they always seem to feel hurt instead of having good emotions.

I see a lot of things crop up on Facebook where a person posts something with the intent to receive compliments, comfort, and consoling, and this, to me, just smacks as one of those things.

So, I ask you: what is a person who helps/gives/loves too much?  

In my experience, this is a person with low self-esteem and low self-worth. They want to help solve your problems or give you advice/items because they want to feel valuable. They love you "too much" because they want to feel loved and they don't know how to love themselves (or because they don't realize that God loves them).

Since these people have a low value of themselves and use the opinions and views of others to define who they are, they often do not know their own limits or boundaries. This causes them to overextend themselves, whether you have asked them for help or they have taken up the cause on their own. They don't know how to stop and say, "I love you, but I can't do that for you right now." And since they don't have a high value of themselves, they often don't know when to say no to things that compromise their values, morals, or beliefs.

These so-called heartfelt gestures, though, usually are not committed with the best interest of the recipient in mind. A person with low self-esteem can actually be an incredibly selfish person. They move from person to person, action to action, cause to cause in an effort to create value for themselves through the appreciation of other people and organizations. When their desperate and frenzied attempt to earn someone's love backfires and the recipient becomes angry or irritated, the person with with low self-esteem can't face the fact that maybe they behaved badly. Instead, they feel sorry for themselves and think, "Well, I guess I just help/love/give too much because I have a good heart. I should be appreciated more."

It certainly isn't the sign of a "bad" heart if you know your limitations and boundaries and can say "no" when appropriate! And we learn what times are appropriate by having an active relationship with God and regularly spending time with Him in His Word.

And, what about trusting "too much", you ask?

There is no such thing as trusting "too much", in my opinion. The person who is truly trusting might get hurt from someone who takes advantage of that trust, but it is the deceiver who is in the wrong. 

A person who believes in and trusts God can take heart knowing that God sees all things and remembers the times that His child is hurt or taken advantage of. We need to trust that God will choose the appropriate action to discipline those who have done wrong, and we also need to trust that He will choose the appropriate time to do it.

Additionally, when we have an active relationship with God and regularly spend time with Him in His Word, we will have a better idea of where our trust can be placed because God will direct us. We certainly can't expect humans to be as trustworthy as God, but that doesn't mean that humans are untrustworthy to a fault. We can trust that in where God leads us, our efforts will return fruit.

So, what if this image seems reasonably true?

I would suggest that you examine yourself and your motives. Are you truly helping, giving, and expressing love because you love the recipient, or are you doing it because you want them to love you and express love to you? Do you have an active relationship with God where you regularly talk to Him and spend time with Him in His Word? 

If you read this, and you find that you're facing feelings of anger and resentment, I would suggest having some prayer time with God and really digging deep into your heart and motivations. I am not trying to point any fingers or place any accusations, but an intense emotional reaction could indicate that you are in denial. It's best, in my opinion, to lay it all out bare before God and let Him help you sort it out. It could just be that you're having a really rotten day... or it could also be a sign that God wants to do some work in you. ;)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blog Redesign!

I was thoroughly unhappy with my original blog design. It was finished hastily so that I could have some idea of how things were going to work with Blogger. It was decent, but it looked to me to be childish, pixelated, too busy, and kind of messy (there was just too much colour and too many shapes all going too many directions). Plus, while I think quite a bit of it suited me, there was something out of place that I couldn't put my finger on. Basically, I just wasn't satisfied with the overall look and feel of it, so I made a new one. :)

Back in January, I found a good portion of the comics that I had drawn while working at the riverboat casino (the ones that I thought I had lost for good). I was happy, but I knew those weren't all of them. Well, about a month ago, I found the rest of them and scanned them. Then, today, I snipped a few pictures of myself from the comics to make a new Facebook profile picture and cover image. I had so much fun and enjoyed it so much that I decided to redesign my whole blog theme!

Green has been my favourite colour since I can remember - since I was a little girl and I sat down with my Little Golden Treasury and read along as The Color Kittens mixed all the colours in their search for green. When I was younger I preferred a sea green, but as I got older, I came to appreciate olive, especially olive drab. This was convenient since, for a long time, I also have been very fond of military designs, insignia, and the wartime designs and imagery of World War II. (I credit Molly McIntire, the American Girl, with the earliest budding of my fascination, and well, if you know anything about the book series, you might draw a correlation between it and the name of my blog. ^___^)

Now, you might be inclined to think that this love for military-esque things came from the fact that I am a Marine Corps wife, but you'd be wrong. I was driving my Barbies around in an olive drab G.I. Joe Jeep as a kid instead of a pink convertible (because the Jeep was green, and Barbie fit better in it than the convertible .. and the Jeep was really more open and airy than the convertible any way...) and wearing boots that my Army uncle said resembled combat boots when I was still in high school. No, I think that my fascination with the styles of the military just made it easier for me to accept the transition into being a military wife. (That, and Girl Scouts. We sang cadences while we walked double-file -in pairs- everywhere we went. We also participated in morning and evening colours ceremonies, especially at camp. So hearing the Navy Corpsmen run past my house in the morning singing their cadences or hearing evening colours out my bedroom window are in some odd way comforting.)

Someone might look at the olive drab map bag that I use at a purse and just think that I am being "moto". Moto, in the Marine Corps, stands for "motivational" and would mean that I was being supportive. But, that's just being me. Just like I would rather wear camis and boots than business casual (especially the "woodlands" camis, which I still think should be called "forest" if they're gonna have "desert"), and I like to hang my necklace pendants on ball chains, and I think canvas is the most awesome fabric ever. No, moto for me are the USMC patches that I have glued (and need to someday actually have sewn) onto my purse, the key chain I have of my husband's boot camp photo, the USMC pin I sometimes wear, or the key chain I got while visiting my husband at MCT that says "Marine Corps Wife: Toughest Job in the Corps". (Lord, I had no idea at the time how true I would find that statement to be a few years later!)

My point is that the kind-of militaristic design of this blog is not some homage to the base we live on or the organization that signs my husband's pay checks. It's just a part of my own aesthetics. And it really doesn't reflect on whether I agree with the military or not - I like to keep a rather romanticized view of the military. It makes it easier to deal with the fact that I have lost a lot of respect for the military just from being a spouse.

Sooooooo.... all rabbit-trail ramblings aside, ta-da: there's a new blog design, and I like it! :D /throws confetti