Sunday, March 31, 2013

Simple Sundays: The Simplest of All Sundays

Usually I post a recipe as my Sunday post, but Easter Sunday demands something different.

In a lot of ways, Easter Sunday is the epitome of a 'Simple Sunday'. Easter is the day Christ rose from the dead, having paid our ransom, freeing us from the bondage and penalty of sin. Easter was and is the day that changes everything.

Today I hear the word 'tombstone' in reference not to the plaque placed above a grave, not in reference to pizza sauce, but as a word describing a stone that sealed a tomb. The tombstone rolled over the entrance to Jesus' grave is such a powerful metaphor. As our pastor said this morning, it was the period at the end of the sentence of Jesus' life and ministry. It was the end of the love He showed the world. It was the end of hope for His disciples. Behind that stone lay the promise for a better, more fulfilling life. Behind the stone lay the man who came to bring freedom, the man who was ultimately chained, whipped and crucified. 

BUT THEN THE STORY CONTINUES. The stone is not an ending. Instead, the stone is rolled away! He is Risen! With Him our hopes rise, our spirits are lifted up.

Sin has lost it's power.
Death has lost it's sting.

Hope rises.
Love wins. 

Today's Verses
Mark 16: 5-6
When the entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, "Don't be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead!


Friday, March 29, 2013

The River Runs Through Us

Scripture says that rivers of living water flow through those who believe in Christ. The river brings the fruits of the spirit. It brings love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. It brings fulfillment and freedom.

Unfortunately, the various things of life can crowd the river. Emotional and spiritual debris falls in, and rather than letting it get swept away in the flow, washed away in living water, sometimes we let the debris stay. We hold on to it. We let it accumulate. We let dams develop, dams that stifle the flow of that life-giving water. The river turns to a stream, then a trickle, and we are left downstream, with less and less access to that living water.

But God does not intend for us to be dried up. He doesn't want that for us, and He is ready and waiting to help us clear the debris, to help us bring down the dams. When we ask, He will reveal to us the things that are damming up the river running through us. He will reveal how to rid ourselves of the debris that has collected. He brings healing and restoration. He brings life, that we might have it to the full.

He never promises that clearing the debris will be easy or simple, but I am finding that it is rewarding work. I am attempting to clear the debris from my life, to rid myself of the negative things I think about myself, the discouragement I experience in my work, the temptations to give up, to accept that I will never be more than what I am right now. I am attempting to bring down the dams that are holding me back from the rivers of living water that Christ promised. 

Are there things standing between you and rivers of living water?

Today's Verse:
John 7: 38
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

Have you ever found yourself on a path that you always planned to take and discovered that you no longer know why you are walking that path? I've always been the kind of person who planned away her present while thinking about the future. My life plan, at least vocationally, was set a long time ago: I knew exactly what I would be doing and where I was headed from a fairly young age. Now, I find myself in a mental space where I have no idea what the future holds and my present work is no longer fulfilling. I wonder if it ever was. I wonder why I find myself in this place, on this trajectory.

Today I am comforted by the fact that God is a planner, even when I can't plan any longer, even when my plans fall apart. He is meticulous. He doesn't make mistakes. I am where I am, doing what I'm doing, because of Him.

I read that God strategically places us for His plans and His purposes. Even when I don't know where I am going or why I am on this path, He does. He has a plan for my studies, a plan for my health, a plan to use me. He created me, flaws and all, for a unique, specific purpose.

I am opening myself up to a better understanding of His plan for my life. I am trying to let go of the plans I always assumed would come to pass.

A wise friend shared the following statement with me, encouraging me to let go and surrender. I have found it rather freeing even as the endless possibilities are terrifying:

"I will go where He wants me to go, I will do what He wants me to do, I will say what He wants me to say, I will give what He wants me to give."

Have you ever found your life taking you somewhere you did not expect? How did you respond?

Today's Verse
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

He Is

I think coming home from a retreat can be harder than whatever it is I've been through or dealt with at the retreat.  Bringing myself back to a familiar environment, full of familiar schedules, familiar pattern can make holding on the changes I experienced elsewhere rather difficult.

Today I find myself full of thoughts about what I AM. Today I AM tired, I AM in pain, and I AM afraid I won't be able to cling to the weekend's revelations. I AM trying hard to remember the things I learned about myself this weekend. I AM trying hard to keep moving forward.

In the midst of all this I am reminded that it isn't what I am that matters. It isn't my efforts that matter. Without God and His sovereign assistance, I can do nothing, but with Christ I can do all things. With Christ I can have energy. With Christ I can ignore the pain. With Christ I can continue learning, continue moving forward. With Christ I don't have to be afraid of staying the same.

HE IS a supplier, defender, protector, teacher, motivator, father, friend. And I am realizing that He is enough.

Today's Verse
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Being Needy

Sunday night we had our regularly scheduled Penn State Christian Grads meeting, but instead of our usual Bible study-type format, we had an experiential prayer night.  I had never done anything like that before: there were stations set up around the room, each station had a different activity, each station was designed to address a specific thing in prayer.  Having spent the majority of the weekend in prayer at a retreat, listening for God's voice and pursuing healing, I wasn't sure what more God could reveal to me.
I should have known better.

At the station entitled "Altar of Surrender" the first step was to present our needs, worries, fears, frustrations, and pressures to God. We were to lay them out, asking Him to reveal His plan for them and what He wants us to do about them.  When I sat down and read the prompt, I picked up my pen, ready to start by writing down my needs. And I couldn't do it. My brain wouldn't come up with any needs, my hand wouldn't write them down. I asked God, "Why is this so hard? I've spent all weekend in prayer about these kinds of things, why can't I do it right now?" 

He answered, "You need to become comfortable with needing."

I've developed an intense aversion to anything resembling neediness. I hate asking for help. I hate depending on others. I am pathologically afraid of being called or even thought of as 'needy'.

There are so many ways that this manifests itself in my life. I walk places whenever I possibly can, whenever it's safe, to avoid needing a ride. I avoid going to the doctor when I'm sick, even when I know I probably need antibiotics. Now I see that I also avoid needing God. My fear of need has resulted in an inability to recognize when I need help, to accept the grace, support, and strength of God, to open myself up and ask for support from other people.

God created me to live in community with Him. He created me to live in community with others. We aren't created to be alone, to be totally independent of others, to be solitary. He created us to need.  I'm trying to accept that now.

Are you comfortable with needing God? Are you comfortable with needing others?

Today's Verse
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Loving Yourself

I've always been confident. I've always had the answer in class, I've always been good at not caring about whether I had lots of friends, I've always had trouble understanding insecurity. Growing up, my mom often told me how amazed and happy she was that I was able to find my self-worth outside of the opinions of others, the social pressures to be a certain way, to think a certain thing. She has always been thankful that I love myself.

It wasn't until this weekend, at a retreat designed to help 'remove the stones' from our lives, that I realized that the person I just described hasn't been me in a while. Unbeknownst to me, the love I always thought was there inside me, love for who and what I was, has been steadily eroding. Since I was 14, chronic illness and broken encounters and relationships with others have taught me that I'm not worth investing in, that I'm not worth supporting, that there will always be someone else, someone easier, someone less broken, for people to spend their time and effort on.

But these are lies. God says I have worth. God says I do deserve love. God says I am whole and strong, even though I have fibromyalgia. God says I am longed for, even though I've been put aside in the past. God says I am valuable, even though I've been used.

God says I need to relearn how to love myself.

What does loving yourself look like? I'm no longer sure I know, but I am sure that I want to learn.

Today's Verse
Psalm 139: 14
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Simple Sundays: Cake from Scratch

When you don't have a cake mix, how do you find a good recipe for a cake from scratch? Google! I found a moist yellow cake mix that I am quite happy with :)

Basic Yellow Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (do not sift the flour)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
Vegetable oil
1 stick butter (not margarine), softened
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, mixing well.

Measure the 1-1/4 cups of milk in a 2 cup measuring cup. Add enough vegetable oil to bring the liquid in the measuring cup up to 1-1/3 cups.

Add the milk/vegetable oil mixture, butter and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed for 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

Add the eggs and continue beating an additional 2 minutes. Pour batter into greased and floured 9x13in pan.

Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center of cake comes out clean, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center.

Cool cake on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pan and cool completely.

Frost as desired.

The unfrosted cake - it's so beautifully golden :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I think sometimes I have trouble connecting with God because I have trouble being vulnerable. It's easy for me to smile, to laugh, to overcompensate with enthusiasm and verve. It's easy for me to hide what I'm feeling, even from myself.

This weekend I am at a retreat, one designed to address just this kind of thing. The whole point is to address the past, particularly those things that I have pushed down deep, the things I have hidden away and tried to ignore. The point is to deal with those things, to bring them to the light, to let God heal those broken places.

Bringing these things into the light is scary. It requires openness and a willingness to be vulnerable before God. It means facing the things I think about myself and being willing to hear what God has to say about me, about who I am. Luckily, God has set himself up as our fortress, a strong tower where we can run and be safe. We have nothing to fear from Him. He desires our vulnerability. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to invite Him in, to let Him heal our wounds.

I am inviting Him in this weekend. I want to be healed.

What does God want you to be vulnerable about?

Today's Verses
Jeremiah 17:7-8
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Creation

Today I am pondering what it means to be a new creation. So much of my past follows me, affecting how I see myself, how I see my life, how I see the world, how I see God. But the Bible tells us that we are new creations in Christ, that the old is gone and the new has come.

I have trouble embracing that truth. I have trouble comprehending and owning the fact that ALL the old things, the old acts, the old thoughts, are washed away. That, no matter how I see myself, God sees me as whole and complete.

I'm praying now that God will make this real to me. That He will give me the ability to see myself through His eyes. That I will experience His grace.

How do you experience God's grace?

Today's Verse
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Seasonal Change

Today is the first day of Spring, and the high for today is only 34 degrees. On the surface, looking at the weather forecast, it doesn't sound like Spring. However, the sun is shining! It's so bright outside, the sun streams through the windows, the snow melts and Spring emerges.

The transition from Winter to Spring isn't immediate. It's slow, it's gradual. Wishing it would occur faster doesn't make it so. The change from cold to warm requires a great deal of patience.

I think of the Nichole Nordeman song "Every Season".
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season's change
And so it will be
As you are re-creating me
Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring

I think I can learn from the example of the changing seasons. Changes take time. They aren't immediate, they are gradual. Impatience with myself and the things I continue to struggle with isn't productive. Prayer, time, and dedication to progress produce change in me, just as time produces changes in the seasons.

Are you letting God change you? Are you dedicated to the journey He has placed you on?

Today's Verse
Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness You are there.
In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait,
Only for You,'cause I want to know You more
(Chris Tomlin, In the Secret)

These words have been running through my head. I am contemplating what it means to be still. To be in a quiet place. How do I silence the myriad of thoughts that interrupt my stillness, my quiet. How can I hear God when I can barely hear myself?

I'm trying to listen. I'm trying to quiet my busy mind, ease my worry. But maybe that's the problem - I'm the one doing all the work. I need to let God in, let him still the waters, let him soothe. My stillness means He can be busy. I will get out of the way.

Today's Verse
Matthew 8: 26
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Open Up

The sermon this weekend was about listening. Listening for God's prompting, for His calling on our lives, for whatever He wants to tell us. Our pastor mentions the ways in which God speaks: His Word, the Spirit, the church, other people, and circumstances. He then asked us whether we wanted to hear from God, whether we were actively seeking His voice.

What does that mean? For me, it means spending serious time reading the Bible, intentional time in prayer. But it also means being open. It means approaching God with humility, asking to hear His voice rather than attempting to get Him to hear mine. It means not being afraid of what I might hear, or at least being willing to risk being afraid. It means being open to change, open to correction, open to being led rather than taking the lead. It means following up, pursuing God's wisdom, seeking clarity.

Are you seeking God's voice? What is He saying? Are you listening?

Today's Verse:
Matthew 4:4
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Simple Sundays: Tea

There is little I love more when it's cold outside, when I don't feel well, or when I just need a relaxing moment to myself than a cup of tea. Yesterday I attended a tea tasting and had the most delicious smoked tea. Yes, tea that had been roasted over a fire. It was delightful!

It's called Lapsang Souchang and there are numerous retailers out there if you want to try a new and different kind of hot beverage.

Are you taking risks with the things you eat and drink? Stretch yourself!

Picture Source

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Little Things

There are so many distractions and stresses in life, always so many things to be done and accomplished. But sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back and do something different. To take all those demands on our time and focus, and put them on the back burner. To reach out and connect with other people, to do something fun, regardless of whether it's productive, regardless of whether it will further your career, regardless of whether it will boost your grade.

Today I bake. I put on my music, spend the morning in the kitchen, and create. I make up a recipe and experiment. I rejoice.

The best part of baking is that it serves other people - I don't even have to eat the food I make! I can do something that brings me pure joy and use it to please others. 

I see God in the little things I do, the seemingly unimportant tasks that I love, like baking. I take joy in my creations the way I hope God takes joy in me. If I can experience such pleasure at the delicious taste of my confections, imagine how much pleasure God finds in me and you!

Are you taking the time to do what you love? Do you see God in your passions?

Today's Verse
Matthew 6: 33-34
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When the Walls Fall

I spend a lot of time marching around my personal Jerichos, waiting and trusting that one day God will bring down the walls. Today I wonder what I would do if those walls were to suddenly fall down, right now.

Am I ready for that? I know I want it, I know I would be happy and thankful to see those barriers disappear. But what would I do? Would I be ready?

If I woke up tomorrow and no longer had fibromyalgia, would I have any idea how to live my life? Would I manage my time responsibly or would I give and give of my time and energy until I had nothing left for myself?

If I woke up tomorrow to find myself in a relationship with the man of my dreams, would I live happily ever after? Would I handle my relationship with emotional maturity or would I be fearful and insecure because I fail to see myself the way God sees me?

I think I still have things God is working out in my life. Things that having fibromyalgia and being single force into the light. I think my work is not yet done. I still have some marching, some trusting God, to do.

Are there pieces of your life that you aren't happy with but that God is redeeming?

Today's Verse
Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Right Words

I have been finding myself without words a lot recently. Friends have presented me with issues or questions and I just don't have the answers. In some cases, I'm not even sure where to start. For me, a verbose and social person, this is strange and unnerving. I like knowing what to say, I like having the answers.

It's easier for me to tell myself to be patient and to pray about something or to wait on the Lord than it is for me to tell others the same thing. When I say it to others I think it sounds too easy, too simple, like I am brushing off their concerns. But it's not easy or simple. It's right. When the answers aren't clear, when the path ahead is shrouded in uncertainty, the only thing to do is look to God, pray, and be patient. I'm not saying that we shouldn't listen to our friends' problems and questions - we should, and we should consider our responses carefully and lovingly. But when we don't have a ready answer or plan of action, we should speak God's truth into the situation. God's word says to look to him, and that's what we should tell our friends.

The Holy Spirit guides and convicts, if only we will listen. God will speak through us to our friends if we get out of the way. He will speak to us if are patient and prayerful and attentive. Filling the room with empty words isn't fruitful, but encouraging a friend to pray and turn their eyes to God is always productive. It may feel like too simple a response to a friend in need, but sometimes its exactly what needs to be said.

Do you have friends who need to hear God's truth spoken into their current situation?

Today's Verse
Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Share of Jerichos

Today I am thinking about Jericho and how the Israelites brought down the wall. They marched around it for seven days, occasionally blowing their horns. But the Bible doesn't describe any deterioration in the wall until it actually falls on the seventh day. There is no description of cracks spreading or rocks falling or walls shifting. The way the story is told, it seems like the wall was intact for 7 days as the Israelites marched, that it was whole until the last day when the Israelites gave one last blast on the trumpets and let out a loud shout. Only then did the wall crumble and fall.

The sudden nature of the wall's collapse shows me that God could have brought down the wall at any time.  He didn't need the Israelites to march around the wall to gradually bring it down. The march was for Israel. The march was about Israel's faith, not about God's power.

I wonder how the Israelites must have felt, walking around the city day after day and seeing no change in the wall. I think about the things I have been (metaphorically) marching around. I realize that no change doesn't mean God isn't present, it doesn't mean God isn't at work. No change means I've been given an opportunity to put my faith, my trust in God. God brings us to Jericho to mature our faith, to take us out of our comfort zone, to get us to make a leap of faith, to show us his faithfulness.

What Jerichos are you marching around?  Are you trusting God to move when He decides the time is right?

Today's Verse
Hebrews 11:6
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

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wait for Him

God often takes a LONG time to accomplish things, and I have a hard time with that. I move forward in little baby steps, always thinking the next step will bring me to completion. Instead, I find new things to deal with, new things to learn, new things to accept behind every bend in the road. I get frustrated with the slow pace, knowing that I am going as fast as I can, as fast as I'm meant to, but so eager to just move forward, to accomplish, to get that stamp of approval. I want to rush through this process to get to the next thing.

I was feeling frustrated, impatient, and antsy last night when I decided to watch the new Bible miniseries on the History channel. Regardless of a myriad of issues people have with the production as a whole, I was struck by the passage of time in the story of Abraham. God promises Abraham a life in a new land and descendants that will be more numerous than the stars, and then SO MANY years pass. Seeing the caption '40 years later' pop up at the bottom of the TV screen drove that home more to me than reading the story in Genesis ever has before.

Waiting that long didn't mean that God had forgotten Abraham or reneged on his promises to him. It just meant that God was doing what He promised in His own way, in His own timing.

I am comforted by this today. My slow progress in my journey of faith, the things I see as roadblocks, the seemingly endless progression towards something new that I just can't quite grasp are all part of faith. They are all part of God's promises - the journey is just as important as the destination. I am embracing the journey today, having faith in God's promises, and waiting.

What is God teaching you as you wait for Him?

Today's Verse
Romans 4:3
What does Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Simple Sundays: Scones

Scones and tea seem to be the thing to do right now - I hosted a tea on Wednesday night and now I am signed up to make scones for a tea tasting next Saturday!  I plan on using this recipe for scones and whipping up some cream to go with them. Enjoy!

Mixed Berry Scones

2 cups Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 teaspoons Baking powder
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cup Cold butter
1/2 cup Dried Berries *
1/2 cup Half and half or cream
1 Egg -- beaten

* Note: Soak berries in hot water for 1/2 hour. Drain.

Sift the dry ingredients together. 

 Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, using a pastry blender. 
Add the drained berries to the flour mixture. 
Mix the half-and-half with the beaten egg and stir into the flour mixture. Use a fork and do not over mix. It should take only a few turns to get dough. 
Divide the dough into three balls and pat each out into a 1/2-inch-thick circle. 
Cut each  into four triangular scones. 
Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 450 degrees for  about 12 minutes or until golden brown. 
Serve with cream. 
Makes 12 scones.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Slowing Down

Sometimes I think that the reason I have fibromyalgia is so that I am forced to slow down, to accept my own limitations. To accept the help only God can give and to force me to maintain boundaries with my time and energy.  Tonight, I am sick with a cold and as much as I want to spend time with my friends, I need to stay home and rest. If I want to be at full strength tomorrow, I have to invest time in doing little today, in doing what's best for me.

I often feel pressure to do what other people need or want instead of what I need or want. I am pathologically afraid of appearing needy or high maintenance, and that means that I often have trouble saying no and setting healthy boundaries for my time and energy. It means that I often find myself running through life, full steam ahead, until suddenly I have nothing left to give anyone, let alone myself.

Tonight I am taking the time to recharge. I am looking to be filled, to be on my own, to fill up my reserves so that I can go back out into my life tomorrow with energy and purpose. Taking time for myself now means I can better serve God and others later. 

Are you taking time for yourself? Are you maintaining healthy boundaries?

Today's Verse
Psalm 19:7
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Being, Not Just Doing

It isn't enough to go through the motions of faith, to say all the right things, do all the right things. It has to come from within. We have to BE faithful. We have to BE hopeful. We have to BE joyful. Acting the part will only get us so far.

It's in the early morning hours that I confront this concept most often. I wake, before I am ready to get up, filled with thoughts and worries, fear eating at my gut. In the dark, everything I knew and said and did in the light seems insignificant and insubstantial. I am practically powerless against the the thoughts running through my mind, the anxiety eating away at my peace and contentment.

I ask myself, "Am I just going through the motions? Or do I truly believe that God has everything in hand, that so long as I follow him I can't go wrong? Do I believe that He has a good and perfect plan for my life? That He WANTS to do good things for me? Do I believe that He is faithful and true and that He honors His promises?" I do. He is. He does.

So I say no to the fear and anxiety. I say no to the thoughts that run rampant through my mind. I turn my focus away from 'what ifs' and back to what and who He is. I can be faithful and hopeful and joyful because of who He is and what He has done and what He will do. Nothing has changed since I first fell asleep. Nothing will change if I sit up and worry and nitpick. Nothing will change if I let go, rest, and go back to sleep.

Worry and anxiety are my way of taking control back from God. Of saying 'Look at me, look how well I can reason this out, how well I can handle it." But that's not faith. That's going through the motions. I can say all the right things and still hold back on the inside. But I am not doing that today. Today, I will rest in His grace and I will be faithful. I will be hopeful. I will be joyful.

Are you being or doing?

Today's Verse
Numbers 11:23
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Drink with Jam and Bread

Sometimes the best part of living in community with other Christians does not directly connect to Christianity. Sometimes the best part is simply having other people to lean on, to share encouragement with, to laugh with.

Last night, I hosted a tea for the women in our graduate Cru ministry. We call the event 'Ladies' Tea', and it is incredibly fun. It's so fun that the guys are jealous that they do not qualify as 'ladies'. I baked scones and prepared tea, and then we sat around and talked about all sorts of things. It was a break from our usual ministry activities, our school work. It was a time to debrief and unload the things that weighed heavily on our minds. It was a time to encourage and be encouraged.

I am so thankful for the community I experience as part of this ministry. The support and love that these women and the others in our group give me on a regular basis is such a blessing. Today, I thank God for placing these people in my life, for filling my life with such amazing blessings.

Are you seeking community? What are you thankful for today?

Today's Verse
Psalm 55:14
What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Choosing Happiness

Lately, I am finding life to be full of cynicism and discontent. There are always things to complain about. There are always scenarios that can be over analyzed and stressed over, and there are always potential outcomes to fear. There is always something that isn't going as well as it could or as well as one might wish. I feel like these things are crowding in, trying to push me to a place where I complain and over-analyze and stress and fear.

Earlier, I wrote about joy as a fruit of the spirit and how lately, for me, being joyful has meant having a positive outlook on life, even in the face of all these things. When I was looking for definitions of joy, I kept coming across the word happy, and I find myself contemplating happiness today.

I have always thought of happiness as temporal, fleeting, something based on my circumstances and the current events of my life. But what if being happy is more nuanced than that? What if happiness is not rooted in circumstances, but is instead rooted in choice?

What if we can choose to be happy or not? What if we crowd out happiness, pushing it away by focusing on negative things, on potential problems? What if it isn't life that makes us unhappy but our own approach to living?

The next time I find myself complaining about something, I want to choose to focus on the good things that are happening. I want to diffuse negative conversations that crop up around me by noticing positive things about the people and situations being discussed. I want to encourage my friends to choose happiness rather than cynical discontent, to encourage them to choose happiness and positivity rather than stress and fear.

Surely joy is a good place to start when choosing to be happy, but it may work the other way too. Maybe choosing to be happy in everyday moments helps cultivate joy. Maybe we need to get out of our own way and let happiness in. Maybe if we make room for happiness, we will actually be happy.

Are you making the effort to be happy? How might you change your approach to things to increase the happiness in your life? How do you encourage others to be happy?

Today's Verse
Ecclesiastes 3:12
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Alone but not Lonely

I am an extrovert. In fact, just saying I am an extrovert is a bit of an understatement. I love people. I love being with them, talking with them, studying them, writing about them. On personality tests my results are always people-oriented. People like me are concerned with what other people need to feel loved, to feel provided for, to feel comfortable. I am 'The Teacher', always wanting to share ideas and communicate. I find energy in being with others, serving others.

I think sometimes I am afraid to be alone. Afraid that all the thoughts I think about myself will overwhelm me if I just sit still instead of distracting myself, instead of drowning them out with other people, books, music, work.

But today, I find myself taking space to breathe, to rest. I find myself alone. I don't have to be - I've been invited to do several things. I could have gone out with a friend for lunch or shopping or just a walk. I could have gone downtown and spent time at a coffee shop, at least near other people if not actually chatting with them. I decided not to. I wasn't feeling all that great and I had things to get done at home so I've been alone. All day.

I love how God reaches out and really grabs me, really opens my eyes on the days when I choose to be alone. Sometimes, often times, I'm not trying to use my longer stretches of alone time to be with God. But still, He shows up.

Today I find myself incredibly happy. I am alone, my thoughts aren't filled with things I could or should or did not do. I'm alone, and I am at peace. I am filled with the knowledge that God is with me, that God's plans for my life exceed the circumstances of my day. I know that I am walking the path He has laid before me to the best of my ability. I know that I don't need to worry about anything: God has it all handled.

I can spend today alone, in my house, and not screw anything up. I can rest. I can be alone.

When did you last let yourself be alone? Is alone time something you make time for?

Today's Verse:
Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What Really Matters

Today I find myself incredibly aware of the protective nature and provision of God. I'm not quite sure why these things are so clear to me today, but I do know that the feelings of peace and assurance that go with them make going about the day and my to do list a lot easier.

I am in the midst of the (hopefully) final revisions and changes for my Master's Thesis. I've sent it to my committee chairs. They might hate it. They might want me to do even more work. The whole process has now officially taken two semesters longer than it was supposed to: what if they hold that against me? What if they don't want me to pass?

I've realized that it doesn't matter what they think. Not really. If they want me to pour more work into my thesis, I will. But it won't change what really matters, because I don't do this work for them. I don't do it for my department. I do it for God and for me. I work hard, not to please my department, but because being a diligent steward of my talents and skills is something God calls me to do. All I care about is whether my work glorifies Him, not Penn State, not my adviser.

My department might not be pleased with me, but if I am walking the path God lays before me, that is all that matters. God goes before me, He honors me and my work when I honor Him. He protects and provides exactly what I need, in academics and in other areas of my life. When I make it about Him, when I keep my eyes on the true prize, the pressures and distractions of academia fade away and I am left with only God. And that's what matters.

What distracts you from God? Are you looking for approval from other sources? 

Today's Verses
Psalm 91: 14-15
"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Simple Sundays: Cake Mix Cookies

Don't have the ingredients necessary to make cookies from scratch? Make these!

1 package of Devil's Food cake mix
1 large egg
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 cup of water
1 cup of mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine cake mix, egg, oil, and water. Beat until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredient (s).

Drop by teaspoon about 1 inch apart onto greased cooke sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until done.

Makes about 30 cookies

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Being Positive

A while back I went to a conference about finding God's calling for your life, and the application for the conference asked which fruit of the spirit I thought was most evident in my life. I chose joy.

But what is joy? The dictionary defines joy as "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires." Yes! Exactly. In Christ, I am well, successful, and I have what I desire.

So what does this mean for my life? What does having joy look like? I am discovering more and more that having joy means being positive. When I cultivate joy, I don't complain as much. I don't get annoyed with other people as easily. I roll with the punches of life much more readily. I see the silver linings all around me, even in the midst of chronic pain. My heart and mind and eyes are opened to the beauty of the world, the fun to be had just being alive. I have everything I need and I rejoice in God's provision in my life. If God is with me, who or what could be against me?

Do you experience joy in your life? Which fruit of the spirit do you see most in your life?

Today's Verses
Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Friday, March 1, 2013

No Fear in Love

I hear about love a lot. From friends, from books, from TV. I hear about fear and struggles and longing and disappointment. I hear messages of defeat and sadness and bitterness and hopelessness. Words of hope and joy fight to keep from getting drowned out by all the negativity and fear. Sometimes they lose the battle. Sometimes I hear that negativity, that fear, coming from myself.

Lately I've been thinking about what love really is. It isn't disappointment and hopelessness and discontent. It isn't being afraid of pain, rejection, or being alone. It isn't being afraid.

The bottom line: THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE

Love is not what we tend to make it out to be. It's not puppies and rainbows and Valentines. Nor is it some kind of young adult novel, characterized by angst where fear and insecurity mean things are going well. Instead, GOD is love. That's it. God. Is. Love.

When we find ourselves looking for love anywhere but God, we are bound to be disappointed. Why are we surprised that we struggle and face negativity when we take our eyes off of God, who IS love, and look for His perfect love from someone or anything else? God's love drives out fear. When we except His love for us, how can we fear that we will never be loved or fear being alone? Why do we fear disappointment? We aren't unloved. We aren't alone. God loves us. God is with us. God will never disappoint.

When you feel unloved and alone, where do you turn? What do you look to for comfort? Live in the love God has for you.

Today's Verses
1 John 4: 16, 18
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.