Wednesday, January 9, 2013

OK, I'm Up!...So Now What?

"Dear God,
It's 6:30am and I'm up! Even though the devil really messed with me by making sure I was wide awake from 12-4am - I persevered! I'm tired, but I'm up. So, what do you want me to accomplish today? -Amen"

That was my prayer last Monday. See, I don't really do "resolutions" but I do pledge every year to put God FIRST in my life.

How do I do that?

By giving the...
  • First tenth of my (our) income to God. I trust God to do a heckuva lot more with my remaining 90% than I could ever do by keeping 100%!
  • First of my day. I start everyday with God in the Word, by reading my YouVersion bible plans.
  • First of my week. I start every week by attending one of Lifechurch.tv's weekend services.
  • First of my year. I start the year by doing a 21-day fast.
And by "fast" I simply mean that I give up something that is meaningful to me. Something that I will miss. Something that I crave, unfortunately sometimes more than I crave God. I give it up to remove that barrier between us. So that I can grow closer to Him and hear what He wants me to do (or not do) this year.

In the past I've fasted from carbonated beverages and chocolate. Definitely two things that I crave. But I've proven that I can give those things up. They've lost some of their lure.

So this year I was thinking I need to come up with something different. Something that has an even bigger hold on me. We'll get to that in a second.

Ongoing Goals

Like I said earlier, I don't really do resolutions, mainly because I feel like I'm just setting myself up for failure. But I do have 3 ongoing goals that I have been actively working toward. They are:
  1. Be healthy (and lose weight as an added benefit).
  2. Be debt-free except for the house.
  3. Run a successful interior design business which serves people and God. 
I pray for God's divine intervention in all 3 of these because I cannot succeed without His help! Don't get me wrong, I know that I have to do my part too. In the book Sun Stand Still, Pastor Steven Furtick refers to this as "pushing while you pray." And I've been doing that.
  1. I've lost 15 lbs in the last 5 months by moving more and eating less.
  2. We're closer than ever to realizing our debt-free goal by budgeting and spending wisely (mostly).
  3. I've gained a clear vision for my business by consulting, listening, and obeying God every step of the way. Moving forward in faith even when I cannot see what lies ahead. This includes tackling my own self-hosted blog (www.revyourroom.com) and starting my e-Book.
I know that goals have to have benchmarks and timeframes to be useful. And I do in fact have those. But I thought I'd spare you the specifics!

Start by Doing One Thing

So back to my fast. In church this past weekend our Pastor talked about discipline and how without it we can't accomplish anything. So he encouraged us to pick ONE thing that we are going to start doing to become a more disciplined person. Just one because we need to focus.

At first I thought, "Great, one more thing I need to do." I have to figure out one thing to STOP doing for my fast, and also figure out one thing to START doing to gain discipline. Also, I have 3 goals that I'm working toward. I don't want to pick just one!

Then it hit me! The ONE thing I could do that will contribute to all 3 of my goals AND fulfill my fast/discipline criteria...

GET UP EARLIER!

This one thing fulfills the discipline I will START.
It fulfills the one thing I will STOP or give-up for my fast (SLEEP).
And it will provide more time in my day to work toward my 3 goals.

By getting up earlier, I will be forced to go to bed earlier (because I'll be tired). Which in turn means I will waste MUCH less time watching TV, perusing social networks, and playing games on my phone! All of which I usually do when I'm staying-up late. So if I adjust my sleeping hours I'm bound to be more productive in the morning, right?!

So Far So Good!

I'm now on day 3 of my 21-day fast/experiment. So far, so good. I did not make getting up early my "resolution" for the whole year, because that seemed really daunting and doomed to fail. After all, I've never been a morning-person. As a matter of fact I sort of pride myself on being a night-owl.

But I can commit to just about anything for 21 days. And I believe I've heard somewhere that's the amount of time it takes to develop a new habit.

So hopefully, by the end of my fast, I'll want to continue getting up early. As a habit! Because it benefits all other things I want to accomplish this year!

I'll be back with a progress report in approximately 18 days! Wish me luck!

"Thank you God, for giving me the perfect discipline to start my year! I'm looking forward to walking with you in 2013! -Amen!"





Friday, April 6, 2012

Should I Get Baptized?

"God, what more can I do? I know you love me and want me to be happy. I know that I am so blessed to know you and that you are with me always. Tell me what to do and I'll do it. I don't care about the house or the job. I don't even care if I can have another child, just please help me find my way back to happiness."

I uttered this prayer, or a similar version, many times in the Spring of 2007.  My husband, daughter, and I had been attending church regularly for the past 2 years and I was feeling closer to God than ever.  So why was I so unhappy?...You see, in those past 2 years we had opened and closed a business, amassed a lot of debt, and also experienced the miscarriage of our second child back in October.

By this point I was restless and desperate for change.  I was miserable in my current but necessary job and was trying to get over my depression by turning my focus to buying a new house and finding a different job. In hindsight, this wasn't the best plan, because it was mine, not God's.  So it didn't matter what I did or how much I prayed, nothing was happening. Our existing house wasn't selling, my job pursuit was in limbo and no matter what, I could never bring back the baby I lost.

I wasn't mad at God though because I knew He had His reasons and His plans are always better than mine. But I was desperate to change the way I was feeling. To escape the pain. So I was trying with all my might to move my life in a better direction. I didn't want to sit still in that pain.  I wanted God to snap His fingers and make everything right again.  But God wanted me to sit still, be patient, and really listen to what He was telling me.  When I finally did, this is what I heard Him say:

"You need to get BAPTIZED."

What?!...That's not what we're talking about here God. How is getting up in front of the entire church and being dunked into a tank of water going help me feel any better? It would be different if you and I had just met, if I was still basking in the glory of my newfound faith. But we've been walking together since I was a teenager, and to be quite honest I'm really beat down, wondering why you've allowed such loss into my life.  I'm asking you to help me, and you want me to get baptized?!

Yes that really was my first thought...I know, I'm horrible!  But in my defense I didn't grow up in church.  I always believed in God, but not church.  I had my own personal relationship with Him and knew that He loved me whether I went to church or not.  So when it came to baptism I had much the same thought.  It seemed to be a non-issue.  I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior long ago so why did I need to humiliate myself in front of everyone by getting baptized?

And then it hit me like a rock (pun intended - Psalm 18:2)...God revealed to me just how selfish and wicked I really was! I shouldn't get baptized for myself. I should get baptized for HIM!  Jesus suffered the ultimate humiliation...CRUCIFIXION!  He endured the most brutal torture and death, on a cross, for ME! You'd think I could show a little appreciation!

It was no longer a question of, "Should I get baptized?" but rather, "When and where do I sign up?"

I believe it was no coincidence that it was almost Easter, the day that we acknowledge Jesus overcoming that cross, and my church was having a Baptism Bash to celebrate.  My husband had been baptized as a teenager, but he signed up to rededicate his life to Christ right along with me. We were baptized together at a special Good Friday evening service April 6, 2007.

It's also no coincidence that I've been inspired to write this post and publish it today, April 6, 2012.  Exactly 5 years later, AGAIN on Good Friday.  God is so timely!

Anyway...here's the feel-good, fun part of my baptism story:

You may or may not know that my husband and I are die-hard U2 fans. We've been to every concert of theirs since we were in college.  It's about the only music we can agree on. I bring this up because while we were in the pool waiting to get dunked (you know - being humiliated), I noticed that one of our all-time favorite U2 songs, Window In the Skies, was playing over the sound system.  The lyrics of that song so perfectly fit the occasion, that I just knew God meant it especially for us!  It was His way of showing His approval.

How do I know this?  Well...

Since we'd gotten soaking wet the night before, we didn't actually attend the service.  We went back on Saturday for the full experience.  Another group was being baptized and I was excited to hear the song again.  All the services, right down to the music played, are usually the same.  But not this time!...the U2 song was mysteriously missing from the playlist.  I say this facetiously because I believe God was confirming that song was just for us! Who knows?...maybe we were the only ones who heard it at all!  Isn't it just like God to play the perfect song at the perfect time.

And guess what else happened shortly after being baptized?...We got our new house, I got a new job, and we welcomed our son to this world a little over 10 months later.  I found my happiness again.  But what I really learned from this whole experience is that when we take our focus off of ourselves and focus on God, that's when we experience true happiness.

I want to be clear though...God did not answer all of my prayers because I got baptized. Do things seem to have turned around for me as a result?  Yes they do.  But my trouble didn't stop that day.  Quite the opposite.  If you've read my previous post, How I Met Nehemiah, you know that my troubles actually worsened dramatically before they got better.  But I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything!  They've shown me how to completely trust God and learn to be happy regardless of my circumstances.

Because of our own sin nature, our lives will never be perfect or free from trial.  But because of God's perfect Son, who died on a cross to "wash" us free from all our sins (which is what being dunked in the water at baptism symbolizes), we can face those trials head-on with full confidence that God is on our side and that He will use all things for good (Romans 8:28)!

That's what it means to truly walk with God.  And it's as easy for you as it is for me.  Because of Jesus's sacrifice, God is accessible to us all.  He wants to have a personal relationship with you.  You just have to believe, confess your sin, and all is forgiven.  Isn't that the best news ever!

This Sunday let's give an extra special thanks to God by remembering that HE IS RISEN!

And with that I leave you with a little snippet from U2's Window in the Skies:
...
The rule has been disproved, the stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove, all debts are removed
...
Oh can't you see what love has done
...
What it's done to me

Happy Easter!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Longest 10 Seconds Ever

"Dear God,
This is the longest 10 seconds EVER...please speed up time! Please make it stop! And could I look any more ridiculous? H...E...L...P...!"

I recently had a very humbling experience. If you've been keeping up then you know that I recently injured my knee (doing nothing but standing in my kitchen while hosting my first bible study meeting) and have been recovering from surgery. I've also been going to Physical Therapy for the past 6 weeks. It has been going well and I was able to ditch the crutches about 3 weeks in. Since then we've been really focusing on strengthening not just my knee, but my entire core and getting back to my normal gait (that's the PT smarty-pants way of saying "walk").

So back to my humbling experience...my therapist had me lie down on one of the tables, on my back, bend my right leg (that's the GOOD one mind you), raise and straighten my left leg, and then using the right bent leg, lift my butt up off the table and hold for 10 seconds...I could NOT do it! I mean I sort of did it, but I couldn't lift all the way up so that my body was in a straight incline. And it had nothing to do with my knee.  I just flat out wasn't strong enough to do it.  It was so humiliating. I was trying my best and my entire body was trembling as he counted to 10 in what I swear was 3x's that of a real second. When he finally let me drop down I thought for sure he was going to say,

"OK, you're not ready for that...let's try this instead." But NO! Instead he said, "OK let's try your left leg now."

WHAAAAT?! I thought. That was my good leg and now you want me to try it on my bad one? But not wanting to be a big baby I attempted it.

"ONE.......TWO.......THREE.......FOUR.......(Insert above prayer right about here).......TEN!

So humiliating! It became quite evident to me and my physical therapist that I have never actually used those muscles before - the glutes - yeah that's the butt muscles for those of you that aren't as fitness-minded as me (ha)! So anyway, he didn't make me do anymore of them.  He was probably worried that I would pass out right there on the table in front of all his other clients...not real good for business.  He instructed me to continue working on that in my home program (yeah - I'll get right on that!).

You see, I HATE to exercise. I've been successfully avoiding it my entire life with my justifying self-talk: 
It's just not my thing...There's sweating involved...I'm not that coordinated...I lack the discipline to make it a habit, so what's the point...I don't look good in work out clothes...My motto is "never run unless being chased..."

But I have a confession to make. At the beginning of 2011 I prayed a prayer asking God to help me lose 40 lbs by the time I turned 40. In my head I named this my 40x40 prayer. I prayed for it, more than once actually, and then I did nothing about it. This is a confession because I never told anybody about my 40x40 prayer. Probably because if I had, I would have had to actually do something about it. And let's face it...I really didn't want to put forth the effort. I know I'm never going to look like a SI swimsuit model, so why bother?  By not telling anyone, there was no one to hold me accountable. But guess what?...I told God and He's holding me accountable.  Here's what He's been saying to me:

Kim, it's time to wake up.  If somebody was in fact chasing you, you wouldn't have a snowball's chance of outrunning them, even before you hurt your knee. And you know what else...you don't look good in workout clothes because you never workout! And another thing...you don't hate to exercise, you've never even given it a chance.  You've just been believing the devil for most of your life that you will never be physically fit.  It's time to stop listening to those lies and start believing me!

Well when it comes to excercising I've been really good at ignoring Him.  He's been whispering to me for a long time.  I think that's why I prayed 40x40 in the first place.  But the louder He spoke the more I closed my ears until "SNAP!" (that was my knee) I could no longer ignore Him.  Not if I wanted to walk normally again anyway.

Have you ever seen the movie Evan Almighty? (click here to see the clip) It's really cute. Anyway, in it Morgan Freeman plays God and he's talking to Evan's wife (she doesn't know that he's God) and he says:

"Let me ask you something.  If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?  If they pray for courage, does God give them courage or the opportunity to be courageous?  If someone prayed for their family to be closer (which she did), do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them the opportunity to love each other?"

If someone prays to lose 40x40, do you think He zaps them with immediate weight loss, or does He give them the opportunity to work out?  Or in my case "force" them to start working out!  See, He really did answer my prayer.  Not the way that I wanted - SHOCKER!  But the only way He could get my attention.  He allowed my freak knee accident to occur.  Which in hindsight really isn't freaky at all.

It's no coincidence that I hurt my knee doing absolutely nothing.  Now there's no logical explantion.  Nothing I can blame it on other than myself.  It's not like I was skiing and can just decide I'm not going to ski anymore.  I can't just decide that I'm never going to stand in my kitchen again.  And it's no coincidence that it happened the day after my 40th birthday party, a week before my actual birthday, DURING my first bible study group get-together. Because of these circumstances surrounding the accident I will forever associate my injury with my 40x40 prayer.

Please don't misunderstand. I don't think God is punishing me. I think He is loving me! Loving me by revealing the lies that I've been believing all these years. Loving me by changing my heart and my mind about the importance of exercise and being healthy.   I now believe that the accident is actually the answer to my prayer (be careful what you wish for right!). 

Much to my surprise, I actually look forward to going to PT because I actually feel stronger after every session.  It doesn't matter that when I leave I haven't lost a pound. What matters is that I am getting stronger. I am amazed at how quickly my body responds when I consistently put forth a little effort.  My knee feels better. I feel better. This is a feeling I want to chase for the rest of my life, and with the focus being shifted from that of weight loss to actually feeling strong, I think I finally have the motivation to do it.

The following verse has taken on a whole new meaning for me:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses [my new bible study friends] to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down [literally], especially the sin that so easily trips us up [and lays us flat on our kitchen floor]. And let us run with endurance [remember my old motto towards running] the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:11 (NLT)

God wants to answer my prayer because He wants me to be healthy so that I can run the race that He's set before me. I'm going to continue down this path.  It's not too late.  I've still got 9 months to be 40.  And even if I'm not 40 lbs lighter I'll probably be 40x's stronger!  It's no longer a quest to be skinny (which obviously was not a very motivating factor since I'd already deemed it impossible), but a quest to be healthy...whatever that looks like!  Thank you God for convicting me! 
 

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